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Working like the dickens: (l-r) Rebecca Rogers rehearses with Kerr for A Christmas Carol.

Scrooge Sings Anew

Writer and arranger Jay Kerr, whose career has taken him from the Captain Kangaroo TV show to the USO, from New York City’s Continental Baths (where he accompanied Bette Midler) to Broadway—was winding down his work as a vocal coach when he bought the Fort Salem Theater in 2006. Formerly a church, then a fort, then a church again, the two-and-a-half-century-old building had been used as a summer stock theater since the 1970s. “It’s a seductive building,” he says. “I did fall in love with it.” This week Kerr reopens the restored mainstage with a new musical version of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Kerr and Jeremy Blachman, author of the blog, novel and soon to be television series, Anonymous Lawyer.

Kerr sees the Fort Salem Theater as a lab of sorts, a “free atmosphere to create acts.” In the smaller cabaret space, Kerr hosted performers from New York City and the Capital Region throughout the summer and fall. They traveled north not to take in the scenery but to craft a show with Kerr—a writer, arranger and accompanist all rolled into one—and then to perform it without having to worry about who was in the audience. “It’s all about giving artists the opportunity to create a show and have a place to do it.” Next year Kerr will use this as his model for a new school at Fort Salem with classes in acting, singing and dancing.

Kerr met Blachman while leading a writers’ workshop for the Princeton University Triangle Club, the college’s musical-comedy troupe, whose former cast members include Jimmy Stewart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Brooke Shields. Blachman, Kerr says, was something of a “Woody Allen type,” easily overlooked, but Kerr heard something in his songs and before long had him up on stage. Out of college, Blachman still didn’t fit the mold and drifted a bit before landing at Harvard Law School where he wrote a humor column for the school newspaper. Later he started the blog Anonymous Lawyer, the fictitious accounts of a partner at a well-heeled law firm who used his airtime to zing his coworkers and ruminate over the misdeeds of his day. A well-timed slip to a New York Times reporter revealed Blachman as the author and landed him a book deal. The novel, told as a blog, is now being turned into a pilot for a TV series.

Set both in upstate New York in the present and in Dickens’ 1850 London, Kerr and Blachman’s version of the haunting Christmas tale tackles contemporary notions of greed and avarice with a Cratchit family that’s a bit more Scrooge-like than the original. In addition to Kerr and Blachman, the show features the choreography of Susi Trombley, who led the dance company Charlie’s Works in London. The Cratchits are played by the Gee-LaMothe family: New Age composer-pianist Geoffrey Gee, dancer-choreographer Kimerer LaMothe and their four children. “They can sing and they can act, and they all get to rehearsal at the same time,” Kerr says. Rounding out the cast are Kerri Lynn Jennings as Belle, Scrooge’s fiancée, and Gordon Hazzard as Scrooge.

—Jacqueline Keren

A Christmas Carol will be presented Dec. 14-16 and Dec. 21-23 at the Fort Salem Theater (11 E. Broadway, Fort Salem). Performance times are 7:30 PM Fridays and Saturdays; 2 PM Saturdays and Sundays. For reservations and ticket information, call 854-9200.

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