Scrooge returns to recite Gospel

Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2012, 8:30 am
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By Leon Lagerstam,
MOLINE -- It's that time of year when Ebeneezer Scrooge wants anyone with ''Merry Christmas on their lips'' to be ''boiled in oil and buried with a stake of holly through the heart.''

Don't be surprised to hear those words roll off the lips of the Rev. Jerry Helms for the next week or so. The good pastor at CornerStone Christian Church turns into the ''sour, bah-humbugging, tight-fisted, cold-hearted'' bad guy at the drop of a top hat.

''And I'm ready to again play the same Scrooge people have learned to hate -- and then love,'' Rev. Helms said.

He and about 100 of his church members are preparing to stage '"The Gospel According to Scrooge: A Musical Drama'' next weekend. Show times are 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, at Scottish Rite Cathedral, 1800 7th Ave., Moline.

''It's an excellent way to start the Christmas season,'' Rev. Helms said. ''It has become a holiday tradition for many families in the area.''

It will be the 27th year for the play, previously performed at the former Moline Gospel Temple, until CornerStone church members took over about a decade ago.

It's far different than what comes to most peoples' minds when they think about a typical church play, Rev. Helms said.

It's a full, professional quality musical that takes a cast of 70 people to put on and a group of 30 others in charge of lights, sound, backstage work, ''and people passing out bulletins and the like,'' director Jan Fulkerson said.

It also has led to the production of a full line of commemorative T-shirts, sweatshirts, pamphlets, fliers, business cards and other merchandise to market the presentation.

Mrs. Fulkerson and her husband, Bill, have been involved in all 27 stagings of the musical, she said.''I always think that if we can get a cast, we should continue doing it.''

Casting isn't restricted to gender or generations. For example, the role of Tiny Tim will be played by a girl for the fourth time in the play's history. And not just any girl, but Evie Lundahl, daughter of Pattie Lundahl, who once portrayed Tiny Tim, Mrs. Fulkerson said.

'"We also have a new dog in it this year -- a beagle named Mater, who has an important hound-dog bark to give,'' Rev. Helms said.

Christmas music lovers will get an early treat, when stage carolers reel off a collection of holiday favorites until Scrooge runs them off stage.

One of the hardest things actress Phyllis Gromm said she had to get used to when performing the show ''was having pastor yell at me all the time,'' she said.

''Only as Scrooge, while on stage,'' Rev. Helms said.

Mrs. Gromm said she will portray a ''solicitor,'' and recited her lines of asking for ''funds for the poor and destitute. They suffer dearly at this point in time ..."

Her husband, Wayne, has played the constable for nine years. The Gromms also have done set construction for many years.

They said they keep coming back because they love to draw audience members to the show and share the Word with them.

Angels, not ghosts, visit the hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge, until he gets the true meaning of Christmas and turns his life around.

Although the ending's pretty familiar, ''we never know the impact we will have on people attending,'' Mrs. Fulkerson said.''And I feel if God wants us to do it, we'll continue to.''

'"Why should people come see it,'' she said. ''Because it's that good.''

Other notes
--Large groups are encouraged to arrive an hour before show time to assure seating.
--Doors will open at 5:30 Friday, Nov. 30; 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1; and 4:30 Sunday, Dec. 2
--No admission cost, but a freewill offering will be accepted to offset production costs.
--Child care will not be available.


Local events heading

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1864 — 150 years ago: Never in the history of Rock Island was there such a demand for houses as at present. Our city is suffering for the want of suitable tenement houses.

1889 — 125 years ago: The choir of Central Presbyterian Church presented a ladies concert under the direction of S.T. Bowlby.

1914 — 100 years ago: Miss Rosella Benson was elected president of the Standard Bearers of Spencer Memorial Methodist Church.

1939 — 75 years ago: Mrs. Nell Clapper was elected president of the Rock Island Business and Professional Women's Club.

1964 — 50 years ago: Gerald Hickman, of Seattle, Wash, will move his family to Rock Island to assume the position of produce buyer for the Eagle Food Center chain of food stores. This announcement was made today by Bernard Weindruch, president of Eagles.

1989 — 25 years ago: Care & Share, formed in 1984 to provide food to jobless and needy Quad-Citians, will disband because the major part of a crisis created by plant closings is over. Food for the needy is still necessary. So groups separately will continue to raise money and collect food.

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