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'A Christmas Carol' to play revived North Shore Music Theatre

Posted by Geoff Edgers  February 12, 2010 05:02 PM

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Since opening in 1955, North Shore brought Broadway-style theater to the suburbs. It was once the largest theater in the region, with close to 350,000 people attending each year.

The ghosts of "A Christmas Carol" past are in the future of the revived North Shore Music Theatre.

The theater plans to bring back its longtime holiday production of “A Christmas Carol,” an audience favorite sliced out of the schedule just before the organization’s demise last year.

Theatergoers can also expect other productions to start as soon as this summer, according to William Hanney, the South Shore businessman who this week finalized his purchase of the shuttered theater for $3.6 million.

“I paid for it, so now the hard part starts,” Hanney said today.

Though he said it was too early to reveal which productions he will bring in for his first season, Hanney made it clear he was eager to see the adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic return with longtime artistic director Jon Kimbell, who retired in 2008.

Kimbell, who has been counseling Hanney for months, will direct the run.

"Jon’s been fantastic through this process,” said Hanney. “He has been my North Shore mentor. Anytime I have a problem or concern, I pick up the phone and call Jon. He was delighted to hear I was going to do it and he was all over it.”

Many Kimbell supporters blamed his successors for the 54-year-old theater’s demise, in part because they chose to replace “A Christmas Carol” with “Disney High School Musical 2.’’ In reality, the financial problems had deeper roots. The theater – which at its peak drew some 300,000 people a year, making it the largest regional theater in New England – had been saddled with years of deficits.

Its loss left a hole for locals who didn’t want to pay high prices and battle traffic to see polished, Broadway-styled productions in Boston.

Citizens Bank paid $3.6 million at a foreclosure auction last year. Hanney bought the property, which includes 28 acres, for the same amount. In addition to NSMT, he owns Theatre by the Sea in Rhode Island and a chain of cinemas.

Kimbell said he was encouraged by what he had heard during multiple discussions with Hanney.

“I think Bill is going to be a really savvy businessman,” said Kimbell. “He’s a smart guy. It’s his own money so he’s going to be careful with it. I don’t know where the budgeting is going but I know, from my conversations with him, that he wants high quality theater there.”

Geoff Edgers can be reached at gedgers@globe.com

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About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..
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