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The Carols - A musical Comedy

Last night was the first music rehearsal for Carnegie Stage’s Pittsburgh Premiere of The Carols, a musical that I composed with lyrics and script by Jennifer Childs. On my way to rehearsal I spotted the first of many holiday street lights sparkling along Carnegie’s Main Street. I had two thoughts. First, I imagined the city hanging these lights the day after Halloween. Holiday decor seems to go out earlier and earlier every year! Second, audiences will soon pass these lights on their way to Carnegie Stage to see The Carols. The notion of it filled me with hopefulness, immense pride and excitement to meet the talented, new cast.

Monica Stephenson with Jen Childs (interviewed by WHYY' Peter Crimmins

In March of 2016, Jennifer Childs, 1812 Productions’ Artistic Director, asked me if I might be interested in writing a few harmony numbers for a new play she was developing to be produced that December. The play was to be a comedic take on the Christmas Carol story told through the perspective of three harmony singing sisters at a VFW in 1940’s Picatinny, NJ. Aside from the sisters, there was to be a grumpy, old land lady, maybe an out of work comic and definitely a limping piano player. The play would have a few songs to help establish the time period and there would likely be a little underscoring. It was certainly not going to be a musical and would not require too much time. As a lover of tight harmonies and as a mother of a two year old with limited time on her hands, this project felt like a perfect fit for me.

Of course, plans often don’t go as expected and by the end of our very first three-day developmental workshop, it was evident that Jennifer and I had a holiday musical on our hands. Jen was writing characters that felt rich with motivation and backstory. We needed the music to express our characters’ desires. We needed the music to make our audience laugh and help them to remember their own joys and experiences. Last year, our country was in the midst of a presidential election fraught with contentious discourse, anger and hate. We needed the music to uplift our collected spirit. We still do.

And so, we begin the rehearsal process for the second ever production of The Carols. The new cast (Jill Keating, Kate Queen-Toole, Moira Quigley, Mandie Russak, Nick Stamatakis, Leon Zionts) is uber-talented and generous and incredibly funny. The designers are brilliant and the director, Robyne Parrish, is inspiring and whip-smart with compelling vision.

I can’t wait for audiences to see it!

Thank you Carnegie Stage for producing this work and allowing us to share in the hopefulness of this little holiday musical.

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