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A Christmas classic with a Christian adaptation returns to Alexandria

"A perfect way to usher in the Christmas season," says Abby Johnson, co-director for the musical

The Christian adaptation of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" will again grace Lake Geneva Christian Center's worship center stage after a ten-year hiatus in early December.

"A Gospel According to Scrooge" was written by Jim Schumacher of Alexandria, who also plays Mr. Fezziwig. The production is co-directed by Jim's wife, Dyann Schumacher, church secretary at New Testament, Abby Johnson, and Amanda Reishus, children's minister at New testament and Mrs. Cratchit in the show.

"It was written with a salvation message in mind and a way to reach out to people that aren't believers in Jesus," said Schumacher. "Even though it is a Christian play, it is really a lot of fun and is meant to be enjoyed. Bring your friends and family no matter where they happen to be church-wise."

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Jim wrote his adaptation in 1981 for his church at the time โ€” Jesus People Church โ€” while living in Minneapolis. What was meant to be a one-time production grew into a show that more than 300 churches across the country have adopted. The production was turned into a TV movie starring actor Dean Jones; Schumacher wrote a special narration part specifically for Jones. The movie is still televised today on TBN โ€” Trinity Broadcasting Network.

"I had no idea it was going to be what it has become. To me, that is the Lord spreading his message," said Jim. "We are thrilled to see so many places doing the show."

According to Dyann, since the original show, more than 60,000 people have responded with salvation.

"For years, we have been getting calls from all over the place asking for the rights to the play," said Dyann

New Testament first performed the production in 1989, after the Schumachers moved to Alexandria, and have performed the show every year until 2011. This year will be the first show the church has done in 10 years.

Johnson said it feels good to return to a tradition their church is known for. The cast is all related to New Testament in one way or another; they are church members, students at New Testament school, and New Testament youth group members. Even most of the costumes were handmade by women of the church during the early years of the production.

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"It helps grow relationships in our church body; we have become very much like a family," said Johnson. We have tried a couple of times in the last 10 years to get some interest from our church; we just didn't have enough people to do the show. This year, we have had many new faces join our church who expressed an interest in the show. Our cast size is about 75 people, and you need a cast of at least 60 to do it well."

"It is exciting," said Dyann. "Every year that we didn't do the show, we would have people calling to ask when it will be performed. The people who come tend to make it a family event. And with Covid going on, we feel that people need this joyous Christmas celebration."

Jim described the production as a great community event that brings members from other church congregations together. In the past, it has been a way for residents of nursing homes to get out and embrace the Christmas spirit.

According to Amanda, the production is a full-length musical with quite a bit of singing and dancing. It runs for almost two and a half hours and is appropriate for all ages.

The production will run at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 through Dec. 11 and at 3 p.m. on Dec. 12 at the Lake Geneva Christian Center worship center โ€” 605 Birch Ave, Alexandria, MN 56308 โ€” with doors opening 45 minutes before showtime. There is no cost for admission.

"It is a way of talking about Jesus without being in a church setting," said Pete Reishus, playing Scrooge and pastor of New Testament for 42 years. "People that have friends who need a little dose of the Lord bring them along."

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Cast

Deb Holte - Mrs. Cobbler

Peter Reishus - Ebenezer Scrooge

Aaron French - Mr. Fredericks

Jeff Lipke - Townsperson #1

Karen Peterson - Townsperson #2

Kevin Mason - Townsperson #3

Tucker Reishus - Bob Cratchit

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Bethany Preston - Solicitor #2

Tom Gieske - Solicitor #1

Caitlen Baker - Young Girl in People

Jo Christianson - Voice of God

Lydia Mason - Angel #1

Jacob Loween - Young Boy Scrooge

Paige Lipke - Young Belle

Stephanie Erickson - School Teacher

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Katelyn Powers - Student #1

Chloe Lukes - Student #2

Thomas Schafer - Messenger

Logan Lipke - Young Adult Scrooge

Maddie Lipke - Adult Belle

Molly Lipke - Woman # 1 at Fezziwig Ball

Jim Schumacher - Mr. Fezziwig

Melody Thoen - Mrs. Fezziwig

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Merideth Reishus - Angel #2

Samantha Gerdes - Dancer in "What is Christmas"

Amanda Reishus - Mrs. Caroline Cratchit

Molly Lipke - Mary (Cratchit scene)

Emma Reishus - Elizabeth Cratchit

Zoe Swor - Matha Cratchit

Jeff Lipke -Fred (Cratchit scene)

Obadiah Reishus - Tiny Tim

Chloe Lukes - Other Cratchit children

Kerith Baker

Emelia Preston - Belinda

Levi Preston - Fred and Mary's other Children

Moriah Loween

Katelyn Powers

Lowell Anderson - Angel #3

Dylan Hauer - Four Gentlemen

Caleb Anderson

Thomas Schafer

Jeremiah Swor

Jason Gieske - Pawnbroker

Stephen Reishus - Butler

Natasha Trumble - Laundress

Collette Jarvi - Additional Pawn People

Kathleen Simonson

Andrew Lenz

Ana Christianson

James Simonson

Mike Loween

Phoenix - Swor

Children in school scene:

Moriah Loween, Elim Loween, Emma Reishus, Phoenix Swor, Levi Preston, Nellie Reishus,

Reagan Johnson, Zoe Swor, Chloe Lukes, Jacob Loween, Paige Lipke, Katelyn Powers, Emelia Preston, Josiah Lukes, Joes Preston, Olive Reishus.

Little Carolers:

Tessa Trumble, Erika Trumble, Sydney Swor, Olive Reishus, Clara Mason, Charis Lukes, Reagan Johnson, Millie Johnson.

Additional townspeople (all other cast members double as townspeople):

Daniel Miller, Kelly Miller, Greg Sandeno, Trina Sandeno, Marie Swor, Juile Gieske, Joanna Mason, Kevin Mason, Suzie Reishus, Luke Erickson, Kidron Baker, Kevin Baker, Philip Simonson, Beth Alsleben, Chuck Alsleben.

Backstage Crew/Production Prep/Etc:

Quinto Lotti, Rita Lotti, Andrew Preston, Lynette Swedberg, Jerry Swedberg, Cameron Swedberg, Chelsea Wiarda, Adell Lukes, Brianna Sakaria, Helen Ann Wagner, Paulette Bakeberg, Naomi Bjorklund, Noel Schonberg, John Christian, Shirley Molitor, Kim Anderson, Mary Nelson, Connie Baker, Barry Arvold, Wanda Loween, Vange Anderson, Karla Stotesbury, Jonathan Aos.

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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