Riverfront honors founder with 2012’s ‘Carol’
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media December 13, 2012 10:46AM
The 2007 "Christmas Carol" cast at the Riverfront Playhouse included Jack Schultz (third from right, standing). Schultz died in September and this year's "Carol" will be performed in his memory. | Sun-Times Media file
‘A Christmas Carol’
♦ Dec. 14-23
♦ The Riverfront Playhouse, 11-13 South Water Street Mall, Aurora
♦ Tickets, $12-$15
♦ (630) 897-9496
Updated: December 13, 2012 10:46AM
There are holiday traditions in every family. In Sherry Winchester Schultz’s family, one of the traditions is having her family perform in The Riverfront Playhouse’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” And despite the fact that her husband of 29 years, Jack Schultz, who adapted the Charles Dickens’ classic and wrote a dozen songs for the show, passed away in September at the age of 58, the tradition continues.
“Did we ever think to not do it this year? Not ever,” said Jack’s widow, Sherry Winchester Schultz, who has directed the show since its inception. “The show itself is a tribute to Jack.”
“A Christmas Carol” will be presented from Dec. 14 to Dec. 23 at The Riverfront Playhouse in Aurora. It is the 19th year for the annual production.
In addition to writing the play, Jack Schultz acted as the master of ceremonies and provided musical accompaniment on guitar and keyboards. That role will be filled by his son, Jackson.
“Jackson will take over the role of emcee,” Winchester Schultz said. “He will probably play the nephew as well as acting as the emcee. We will have to have a new guitarist for Jack.”
In addition to directing the play, Winchester Schultz portrays Mrs. Crachit, which she has done for 19 years. The Schultz’s other child, Heide, also is in the production.
“Heide is playing the Ghost of Christmas Past, which she has been doing for the past 10 or 12 years,” Winchester Schultz said, “and she also plays Martha Cratchit.”
The Riverfront production features a cast of 16 actors who fill about two dozen roles. A majority of the actors have returned from one year to the next to perform in the play.
“The beauty of the show is that the majority of us are stepping into the same roles,” Winchester Schultz said. “Probably 80 percent of the cast members are back from prior years. Mainly we have to replace the kids roles because they have grown.”
Jack Schultz’s version of the traditional Dickens story has a twist: a traveling band of actors have come into town on a circus wagon to tell the story. The twist provides a framework for the Ebenezer Scrooge to receive ghostly visits from his deceased partner, Jacob Marley, and the three spirits of Christmas: past, present and future.
“I often talk to audience members people after the show and they love the fact that it is true to the Dickens version,” Winchester Schultz said. “But how Jack wove other stories into it with the gypsies, people love that. That’s pure Jack.
“There is some improvisation, and people love the songs,” Winchester Schultz continued. “Some of the songs are just heartwarming enough and some are just ridiculous enough.”
Winchester Schultz is comforted by the number of people who have expressed concern for her family.
“It is amazing how many people Jack has touched,” she said. “People tell us that they say prayers for us and that has been huge. We do have our moments, we cry a little bit, and then we find something nice to remember. We find a nice thought. It helps keep you going.”
Presenting this show is another example of finding that special memory.
Said Winchester Schultz: “‘A Christmas Carol’ is a way for us to honor Jack.”