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

  Today is Wednesday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2014. There are 105 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We are told league merchants have paid no attention to the prohibition on selling ammunition, but continue to sell just as before the order was issued.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. R.F. Sweet, rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, left for the East to visit his boyhood home in Boston before attending the general convention of the Episcopal Church in New York.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dr. E.A. Anderson was named to succeed Dr. E.L. Kerns as head physician of the Modern Woodmen of America, and moved to Rock Island from Holdingford, Minn.
1939 -- 75 years ago: One week late, because of the outbreak of war, Dr. E.L. Beyer resumed his work as professor of romance languages at Augustana College. Dr. and Mrs. Beyer left Germany on the last train to the Belgian border.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Employees in Turnstyle stores in Moline and Davenport will vote Oct. 2 in an election set up by the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Employees will vote either for the Retail Clerk International or for no union.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Rock Island High School is considering a step to help teen moms stay in school and get their diploma. The school board is expected to vote tonight on instituting an on-site child care center.

(More History)