For many Houstonians, seeing the Alley Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol as a family is a holiday tradition. This year, one Houston family has a bit of a twist on that: Husband-and-wife duo Elizabeth Bunch and Chris Hutchison, both members of the Alley's resident acting company, will be performing in the show with their own two sons, Noble and Mack. “It is really fun for us,” says Bunch. “And it’s a treat. I can’t imagine it working out like this for any other production that we do.”
Bunch plays Mrs. Cratchit to husband Hutchison’s Bob Cratchit, the long-abused clerk of the show’s miserly protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge. Noble is making his Alley debut as Tiny Tim, the Cratchits' youngest son, while Mack, who played Tiny Tim and Young Scrooge in previous Christmas Carol productions, is playing the Turkey Boy.
“Being able to share this experience is a wonderful way to be together,” Hutchison agrees. “It helps gets the kids to understand what it is we do and what this place is like.”
Performances of A Christmas Carol run through Dec. 29, making the show much more of a holiday marathon than a Christmas sprint. With its large cast and musical numbers, the show has become an enduring part of the theatre’s repertoire. Virtually all of the Alley’s resident company is in the show, and Hutchison figures it’s at least the 12th or 13th time he’s played this role. Having the kids perform with him is fun for both parents and kids.
“Getting to be with my family on stage is like having real time with my family,” says Noble.
“It feels like real life but different,” agrees Mack. “It feels good to be a little independent since I am not in any scenes with them this year. In 2014, I was a cider child in Christmas Carol, and Ioved it, so I came back the next year to play Tiny Tim. After that I focused on school, so I haven't been back at it until this year.”
Neither Bunch nor Hutchison pushed the children to act, but they’re loving the way both of them have found their way to the stage. Being part of the production also gives Noble and Mack a front-row seat for what it means to be a member of one of the country’s most-respected acting companies. Noble, in particular, says he’s learned a lot. “I have learned that I really like the character Tiny Tim,” he says. “It is fun to work on a play. And we get to do a big secret Santa with the whole cast!”
Older brother Mack has a slightly different take on it. “It puts me in the holiday spirit pretty early. We need to work as an ensemble and let go of the words ‘I know,’” he says. “Also, holding a fake turkey that smells like sweat is kind of disgusting!”
The family has made performing this show their holiday tradition, says Bunch. She says that family and friends come to see them perform, and that the feeling among the acting company is that of a close-knit community. “This is such a chance for us to work with our friends,” says Hutchison. “It’s so great to see people we admire and love.”
More than that, however, is the message of the show. Both Bunch and Hutchison agree the story’s message of love and giving, and practicing kindness is something we can all appreciate. “The theme of this story is something that is so perfect for the holiday,” says Bunch. “It is such a universal truth, and it’s something we can all apply to our lives.”
Runs thru Dec. 29 at the Alley. Tickets start at $39. Go to www.alleytheatre.org for more information.