“Estella Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with a Twist” premiered this month as the first fully realized musical to be filmed in virtual production. Its producers Michael Jackowitz of Witzend Productions, David Bryant, and Michael Alden, in partnership with Streaming Musicals, are donating a portion of proceeds to support Food Tank.
This modern take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was planned and digitally produced entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic, using green screens and blending hundreds of images, animations, and digital environments post-production.
Estella Scrooge (Betsy Wolfe of Waitress) is a Wall Street tycoon that relishes in foreclosures. When a hotelier in her hometown defaults on his mortgage, Estella returns to Ohio and is reconnected with her childhood sweetheart (Clifton Duncan of The Play That Goes Wrong), a kind soul who has transformed his property into a refuge for the sick, dispossessed, and homeless. Like her famous great-great-great-great grandfather Ebenezer, Estella is haunted by three visitations and given the chance to pivot away from a life of regret.
“No one talks about the socioeconomic world better than Dickens, and his purview of class and race distinction is all in this show,” Alden tells Food Tank. By taking the journey with Estella, he hopes that audiences will be left inspired by the opportunity of small change from within, as well as the importance of community.
“Entertainment can not only entertain you but also be a vessel towards change,” Alden says. “Just like the famous Christmas Carol, Estella Scrooge shows that the value is in the community, not in the person that’s trying to buy it. The most important thing to do is to take care of your next-door neighbor.”
Coming together, nourishing community, and caring for those in need are powerful tools in inspiring change, according to Alden, and the arts play a large role in this. The reimagined production has developed new ways to produce musical theater—digitally capturing the story one actor at a time with strict COVID-19 protocols in place—and hopes to revitalize a distressed theater industry.
Alden is also developing a program to support an increase in arts education in U.S. public schools, which he says has enormous value in a child’s life and in building a career, no matter the professional path pursued. “My singular goal in art is to get communities to tell their local leaders that they want an arts program in their schools.” This has positive impact not just on the children, Alden says, but in building strong and resilient communities.
Watch the trailer for “Estella Scrooge” below, and click here to rent or purchase the film.