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'Like a family reunion': 'A Christmas Carol' returns to ZACH with Marc Pouhé and Chanel Haynes

Marc Pouhé and Chanel Haynes in 'A Christmas Carol'
Suzanne Cordeiro/Suzanne Cordeiro
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Zach Theatre
Marc Pouhé and Chanel Haynes in 'A Christmas Carol'

Christmas Carol is such a joyous experience,” says ZACH Theatre artistic director Dave Steakley, “and I think the Austin audience knows these actors and they look forward to seeing them onstage, and so there’s just a rapturous response in our theater space when each of these characters come out. So it feels like just a real community celebration.”

ZACH’s modernized, musical take A Christmas Carol has become a holiday mainstay in Austin, and after a cancelled 2020 season and covid-shortened 2021 run, it’s back for (hopefully) a full Christmas season run in 2022. Steakley once again directs, and Marc Pouhé is returning as Scrooge. “I’m really excited to come back,” Pouhé says. “The good thing about doing a show multiple times is you start to develop a bit of muscle memory. And I feel so much more freedom this year because… like the first year, I was just panicking, panicking, panicking trying to make sure I got the lines, got the blocking. But this year I’m able to settle in, work with my new cast members. I love working with Chanel.”

He’s talking about Chanel Haynes, who’s returning to ZACH and to A Christmas Carol to play the Ghost of Christmas Present. Though Pouhé and Haynes are both A Christmas Carol veterans, they’ve never been in a production together; Pouhé made his debut in 2019, and Haynes’ last year in the show was 2018 (she’s spent the past few years playing Tina Turner in the West End and performing with the Rolling Stones). They seem to enjoy working together.

“I love working with you!” Haynes exclaims back to Pouhé.

“She’s a joy,” he says. “She’s truly a joy. And I’m blown away by her voice, and I have to remember to stay present in the scene because I could just sit and enjoy a concert every night when she starts singing.”

It’s been a few years since Haynes last performed in A Christmas Carol, but she says “I couldn’t be happier. Like Dave said, it’s just such a remarkable experience. Not just onstage but offstage, because it’s sort of like a family reunion. So it’s just really, really wonderful to be able to celebrate the holidays with everyone.”

One of the hallmarks of ZACH’s version of A Christmas Carol is that it returns every holiday season, but it’s never exactly the same show – Steakley likes to mix it up and bring some new songs into the production each year. “There’s some Hall and Oates this time!” Pouhé exclaims with a laugh. “I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a Hall and Oates song, and everybody who remembers Hall and Oates – I remember [the unnamed song] as being an upbeat, listen-to-it-on-the-school-bus, have fun song, but it’s slowed down and it’s a beautiful, moving song during a very pivotal moment in the show.”

“One of the notable things I wanted to do,” Steakley says, “is, because Chanel’s been playing Tina Turner in the West End to such acclaim… I wanted to make sure that we had an entrance number for Chanel this time that reflected her recent success, so there is a Tina Turner song.”

“For me,” Chanel says, “I’ve taken ZACH with me everywhere. I mean, once you’ve experienced this stage and just the support and the love and the expertise, that stays in your body. And I took it with me to London, and I always describe this theater as the womb where I became this entertainer that I didn’t even quite know existed.”

Pouhé says there’s a particular moment when, while preparing for this night’s performance in his dressing room, he feels like he’s become Scrooge and is ready to take the stage. “Specifically the eyebrows,” he says. “There are two eyebrows that age me by thirty years, I would say. I don’t know that I’ll ever [really] grow that level of eyebrows. But we call them Statler and Waldorf, from the two old guys in The Muppets. And it just lowers my brow and pushes everything forward and around my eyes. People tell me I have an expressive face, but the eyebrows really help with that too.”

'A Christmas Carol' runs through December 31 at ZACH Theatre.

Mike is a features producer at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for KUT.org. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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