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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Filmmaker reworks locally-produced holiday film Scrooge & Marley for upcoming stage reading
by Matt Simonette
2022-12-07

This article shared 976 times since Wed Dec 7, 2022
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It's been 10 years since Chicago writer/musician/perfomer Richard Knight, Jr. co-directed and co-wrote the LGBTQ+ holiday film Scrooge & Marley.

"One of the most memorable nights of my life was the premiere at the Music Box, and seeing the impact and hearing the impact," Knight, a past contributor to Windy City Times, recalls. "…All of a sudden, everybody is doing gay Christmas movies. When we did this movie 10 years ago, we chose the slogan, 'a holiday film for all of us.' … It was great to see we were a little bit ahead of the curve."

The film, a contemporary take on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, centers LGBTQ+ characters, and was co-directed by Peter Neville. Knight co-wrote Scrooge & Marley along with Timothy Imse and Ellen Stoneking. [Note: Windy City Times Co-Founder and Owner Tracy Baim was an executive producer on Scrooge & Marley]

To mark the 10th anniversary, the film has been re-released on DVD in a special edition and is now available on a number of streaming platforms. Knight and his collaborators are also presenting a reading of a rewritten version of the Scrooge & Marley script, which has been adapted as a stage musical, at Center on Halsted on Dec. 12.

"We wrote this version of it in 2016, and sent it to a couple of people locally," Knight recalls. They got little response, "So we just put it in a drawer and went on to other stuff. Then when we got the deal for distribution for the film, to celebrate the anniversary, I thought, 'I'm going to take out the musical and see what we've got here.'"

The stage version reduces the size of the cast from the film's story, and further resets all the action in one location. Knight said of working in a new medium: "It offers you the opportunity to make changes and to expand certain sequences. Take Fezziwig, for example [In Dickens' original, Fezziwig is Scrooge's first employer; he is a nightclub owner played by Bruce Vilanch in the film]. Because we're set in the '70s, during Scrooge's youth, we thought, since we have Fezziwig with a disco, wouldn't it be great if we had a big disco number? When we have that sequence where Scrooge and Marley are ripping off Fezziwig its during that disco number."

Rewriting the script to expand some characterizations and reduce others—Tiny Tim is now a coughing voice offstage, for example—was essentially "playtime" for Knight and his collaborators. "You really get to try new stuff."

For the stage musical, Knight collaborated with Lisa McQueen (who is musical director at Second City and Annoyance Theater and was the film's composer) and Stoneking. Scott Ferguson directs on Dec. 12.

Knight got the idea for Scrooge & Marley when he was reviewing the 2005 comedy The Family Stone. That had a gay character, at a time when it was more of novelty.

"I thought, 'Wow, they have a gay character—it's real life,'" he recalled, laughing. "I wanted to see a whole film just focused on the gay characters, a holiday thing."

He was in a writing group with Stoneking and Imse. They hit on the idea of a gay version of A Christmas Carol because it lent itself to an LGBTQ+ perspective—and was in the public domain: "We could just adapt away on it," Knight said.

Principal photography was done in 2012 in 12 days, a brutally tight shooting schedule for a feature.

"It was a very arduous, grueling kind of thing," Knight recalled. "There's wonderful things about it, of course. You do have a kind of family thing that happens. The late [philanthropist and athlete] Dick Uyvari—what a sweet guy. We got to shoot a lot of stuff at his place. We shot at [the now-closed bathhouse] Man's Country. [Late Owner] Chuck Renslow has a cameo. It was really, really a labor of love, and a lot of fun to do it."

He's happy that the new stage version—and the new video/streaming distribution—can bring new interest to Scrooge & Marley.

"That's one of the nice things about a holiday movie, and one reason I think a lot of people are attracted to it: The shelf life is forever. It comes back every single year. … Now it's accessible again and it's going to bring [to the film] a little bit of immortality."

Scrooge & Marley is available both on DVD and to stream on the tubi platform, as well as at on-demand streaming services, including Prime Video and VUDU Fandango.

Admission for the staged reading at 7 p.m. on Dec. 12 is free but audience members are asked to register in advance. See centeronhalsted.org/scroogeandmarley.html .


This article shared 976 times since Wed Dec 7, 2022
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