A Christmas CaroL

Sarah Hunt as Belle and Campbell Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” on Broadway. It comes to the Ahmanson Theatre from Tuesday, Nov. 30, to Saturday, Jan. 1. 

Random, unexpected acts of kindness that transform lives is the core of Charles Dickens’ endearing, enduring holiday classic.

It’s also at the heart of the story of how fledgling teen actress Sarah Hunt came to the Ahmanson Theatre 13 years ago.

This month, Hunt — now a Broadway veteran — and a celebrated revision of the timeless classic share the stage. “A Christmas Carol,” with “West Wing” star Bradley Whitford as Ebenezer Scrooge, will end its multicity tour at Downtown’s Ahmanson. Written by Jack Thorne, directed by Thomas Caruso, based on Matthew Warchus’ original staging, the show opens Nov. 30.

Hunt, who debuted in 2008 at the Ahmanson in the national tour of “Spring Awakening,” portrays Belle, Scrooge’s onetime love.

Like the Cratchit family’s happily ever after that comes from Scrooge’s generosity, Hunt’s career took off thanks to a simple moment of goodwill from her high school theater teacher in the small Portland, Oregon, suburb of Milwaukie.

“Ernie Casciato, who ran the theater department at La Salle (Catholic College Preparatory) and cultivated quite a few actors out of that tiny school, handed me a flier early my senior year,” Hunt recalled. “And he said, ‘You know what, Sarah, wink wink, I don’t think you’ll embarrass yourself if you go on this.’”

The flier announced auditions for the first national tour of the Tony-winning musical “Spring Awakening.”

“So, I took the flier, learned the materials, skipped school, said that I had a doctor’s appointment, and went Downtown and auditioned. And it took off from there.”

After the tour, she attended — and graduated from — Juilliard. In 2014, Hunt made her Broadway debut in “The Last Ship.” She’s spent time in Los Angeles acting for TV, most notably a recurring role as Laney on TNT’s “Animal Kingdom.”

In 2019, she returned to Broadway in the premiere of “A Christmas Carol.” It was the script by Thorne, whose “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” has become a theatrical phenomenon, that attracted Hunt to the production.

“What got me when I first read the script was how imaginative it is and how the retelling made it actually feel way more truthful,” Hunt said. “And even though this story is like 180 years old, it feels very contemporary. Somewhere in the spectacle of it all, you let your guard down as an audience member, because you think you’re watching a story about others that you know, which allows you by the end to actually see yourself more objectively, and it’s a really rare occasion where we can truly see ourselves objectively.”

The other aspect that Hunt enjoys is the heavy use of music and technological wizardry of the show, compliments of Warchus, who premiered the show at London’s Old Vic, where he is artistic director.

Caruso, who has worked with Warchus on several productions, took charge of the tour. His goal is to maintain the integrity of the Broadway version, while allowing the many new cast members the freedom to showcase their talents into the mix.

“It’s important that we honor the amazing talents of the people we have involved,” Caruso said. “It’s about knowing what the parameters of the show are but also encouraging people to explore. Sarah is a spectacularly collaborative actress, working with what Bradley Whitford brings to rehearsals. So, the relationship they create together is different and exciting in a completely different way than what she had with Campbell Scott on Broadway.”

The production includes several surprises, some of which involve the audience. The world of vaccinations and masking creates new challenges, but it’s one that Center Theatre Group Managing Director and CEO Meghan Pressman said they have been readying for nearly two years.

“I’m so thrilled this is the return show,” Pressman said. “Our schedule kept changing over the year. It’s a magical production. The storytelling is bold and beautiful. It’s for families, but it’s also so adult smart. It does totally focus on welcoming the audience.

Pressman said the priority is to make the Ahmanson a safe space and that she hopes the audience will help by being patient dealing with the current situation. She believes the show will help audiences feel good. It also will mark a return of CTG as a more active community participant. 

Following each performance, donations will be collected to support the South LA Cafe Community Foundation, which focuses on community access and equity for food justice, workforce development, impact entrepreneurship and conscious business building.

That’s only one of the many elements of the show that Hunt said still makes her emotional. 

“I love sitting in the audience during tech and watching all of it come together,” she said. “For someone who’s read the script hundreds of times and seen hundreds of performances, I still cry. And that is testament to the story and how they’ve really built out all those little features to just get you.”

One person who won’t be in attendance is Casciato, Hunt’s theater teacher who facilitated her first break. He saw her in “Spring Awakening” and remained an active supporter until he died in August. 

But Hunt was able to tell him how much his instruction and encouragement meant to her. 

“I was able to many times say thank you for seeing me before I could see myself and for giving me the confidence to trust myself,” she said. “Because a lot of people don’t do that for teenagers, who are like, ‘I think I want to sing and dance.’ I had the opportunity to let him know what he really did for me. And it wasn’t just career based. It’s also about self. He taught me a lot about myself.”

 

“A Christmas Carol”

WHEN: Various times Tuesday, Nov. 30, to Saturday, Jan. 1

WHERE: Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles

COST: Tickets start at $40

INFO: 213-628-2772, centertheatregroup.org