‘Dickens’ of a Christmas

KALAHEO — Laine Griffith has been doing Sunshine Express for 21 years, but this is the first time that he will be taking on a Christmas production of this magnitude.

“I have done these productions for a long time but yes, it’s definitely been a challenge,” Griffith said.

A music teacher at Kalaheo School and music director for Sunshine Express, Griffith and his cast and crew will put on “A Dickens of a Christmas,” an adaptation of the classic Christmas story, “A Christmas Carol.”

“I just love the story. I’ve been enjoying that story ever since I was really young,” Griffith said. “I remember my first real introduction to it, Mister Magoo’s Christmas. I just loved watching it every year and really enjoyed the story. I love the transformation of Scrooge and I think I related to it.”

Starting Tuesday, the Sunshine Express took its holiday presentation on the road to two care homes for some of Kauai’s elderly to enjoy. The singing show will also appear at the Kauai Coffee Company open house on Dec. 10, and at center stage at the Kukui Grove Center on Dec. 15.

Kalaheo School students and staff can enjoy the production tonight at at 7 p.m.

“A Dickens of a Christmas” is based off author Sally Albrecht’s adaptation of the tale, which struck a chord with Griffith.

“This adaptation seemed really geared for us and so I chose it and am pretty grateful to that script,” Griffith said. ” At first, I was overwhelmed but over the years I’ve gotten a few ideas of how to do it. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to get the parents to help me and I have an incredible parent volunteer group that does so much of the operation.”

Set design, costumes, lights, choreography, parade train decorations and even snacks for the kids at every rehearsal is made possible because of the support from the parents.

“The teachers already do so much and spend so much of their time, so if us as parents get involved, it’ll just make a better performance which will be better for our kids,” said Cheryl Bechard, parent of Aubrey and Adeline Bechard. “Having them see that we support them in their activities really makes a difference.”

The Kalaheo School Sunshine Express is made up of more than 40 dedicated students in grades 3 through 5 at the Kalaheo Elementary School, said Amy Blanchard, a parent volunteer at Kalaheo School.

For Venisa Nitta, it’s been time well spent.

“My favorite part is singing and pursuing what I like to do,” said Nitta, who plays Mrs. Cratchit. “Ever since I started singing, I’ve always wanted to be on stage and be in a play. And ever since I started watching the Sunshine Express, I’ve been excited to get to join this.”

Admission is $3, or $1 with a nonperishable food item. Keiki ticket prices are $1 for age 12 and under, and children under 5 are free. Tickets will be sold at the door and food for purchase will be available before and after the performance.

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