Smog swirled through the London street, knighted by delicate snowflakes proclaiming the winter season. Women draped in fancy layered dresses, bonnets, and gloves strolled on the arms of men sporting long three-piece suits with white ruffled fronts and black top hats.
Like an open snow globe, the quaint Victorian village at Christmastime featured a lit candle shop, bay windowed toy store, succulent butcher shop, frilly hat maker, multicolored flower shop, and cozy inn. Festive holiday wreaths and elaborately decorated trees adorned all the establishments, except for one—Ebenezer Scrooge’s Counting House.
Suddenly, jazzy music played as the street inhabitants faced front singing and dancing of their city at Christmastime, “Oh de London, It’s Not Only Merry, It’s Gay.” During the last refrain, the fog swirls turned into black gusts, and the delicate snowflakes transformed into snowdrifts. Ducking for cover, the passersby screamed and hurried off the street. The shops blurred away like a painting under a faucet.
Like a good holiday fruitcake, I’m back. It’s me, Nicky Abbondanza, PhD, Professor of Play Directing at Treemeadow College, loving husband to Associate Professor of Acting Noah Oliver, and doting father of Taavi Kapule Oliver Abbondanza—who calls me the director of his latest show. You’ve probably guessed the show is Scrooge’s A Christmas Carol. As many of you know, Treemeadow College in picturesque Vermont was founded by gay couple, Harold Tree and Jacob Meadow, whose bronze likenesses are celebrated at the college’s entrance—where many a grateful student has relieved himself after a dorm party. Given Treemeadow’s history, we couldn’t do a straight (pardon the pun) version of the Dickens classic. So, my best friend and Theatre Department Head, Martin Anderson, threatened to put coal in his long-suffering husband’s compression stockings if Ruben Markinson didn’t agree to produce an alternative version of the famous play. Ruben, feeling the holiday spirit—and Martin’s shoe in the seat of his leisure suit—secured a grant from the Gay, Gay, and Even More Gay Foundation to cover our budget. Then Martin wrote the book, music, and lyrics to Call Me Carol!, claiming the lead role of Scrooge/Carol for himself, and offering the part of the Ghost of Jacob Marley/Scrooge’s Lover of the Past to Ruben—commenting that Ruben was as old as any ghost. As director, I cast the most talented actor in the country, if not the world, to play Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Crotchitch—me. My husband, Noah, threatened to put anti-freeze in my eggnog if I didn’t cast him as Nephew Fred in addition to his position as acting coach for the show. Our son, Taavi, had a family court judge on his cell phone until I gave him the role of Tiny Tim. New Assistant Professor of Music Barrett Knight agreed to be musical director and play the Ghost of Scrooge’s Lover of the Future—after I reminded him about his upcoming fall tenure hearing. Theatre students not anxious to get home to relatives gloating about their children making big money in the business world were cast as ensemble members. Students also took on the tasks of choreographer, set designer, lighting designer, costume designer, and stage manager. Local Detective Jose Manuello, wanting to keep an eye on the production—and on me—offered to play the Ghost of Scrooge’s Lover of the Present. Let me explain for anyone who hasn’t read the previous ten Nicky and Noah mysteries—and you should! Mystery and mayhem follow me like a Republican president and a stolen Supreme Court seat. My productions are always met with bravos and wild applause. However, they’re also rife with murder—which I always use my theatre skills to solve. Hence Manuello’s interest in me and this show.
Since you can’t see me, I’m thirty-five. Okay, you got me, I’m really a youthful forty-three, tall, with dark hair, emerald eyes, a Roman nose, sexy cleft in my chin that Noah loves to kiss, and a pretty muscular body thanks to the torture devices in our college gym. There’s something else Noah loves to kiss. Brace yourself, Nicky and Noah newbies. I have a nearly foot long penis when erect. And despite my age, it’s erect a lot. That genetic gift from the Abbondanza line has helped me catch many a murderer, and it has made my father’s bakery a favorite with the women and gay men in Kansas—especially Papa’s cream pie.
Generally, Noah, Taavi, and I wear dress shirts, dress slacks, blazers, winter overcoats, and a long scarf. Since we are donning our gay apparel for this show, we’re outfitted in Victorian-era three-piece suits that are as uncomfortable as a Democrat at an Alt Right meeting.
So here we are at the start of winter break in tech week for our show. For you non-thespians, that’s the week prior to performances when the director generally bemoans his ulcer while suffering a heart attack en route to the psychiatric ward. Sitting in my front-row center seat in the theatre house—clutching my director’s notepad and pen like a surfboard during a tsunami—I called out to the student stage manager at his console offstage left, “Colton, what’s going on?”