David Simpich spices up A Christmas Carol... with puppets

Unless you're a troglodyte who lives under a rock and hates freedom, you've seen A Christmas Carol. The play, the cartoon, the movie, the movie adapted from the play that is also a cartoon based on a true story -- you know the storyline like the underside of your house-rock, and you've seen it a gajillion times, in every possible format.

Or have you?

Because if there's one way you probably haven't seen it, it's with hand-painted, intricately fashioned puppets. Which, if you think about it, is really probably the best way to see it.

The show is the brainchild of puppet master David Simpich -- probably the only guy within 500 miles who can claim that title without even thinking about Metallica -- who's been on-and-off performing it since the mid-'80s.

A puppeteer for most of his adult life, Simpich took his profession as sort of a natural continuation of what he grew up with. "My parents are doll-makers," he explains. "Like, collector dolls you would decorate with, not really dolls you play with. So it was in our home when I was small, and I was interested in that, but I was also interested in theater. So when I was about twenty years old, I saw a marionette in the window of a bookstore, and something just clicked with me."

But long before that epiphany even took place, A Christmas Carol was, in a way, Simpich's first concept for a marionette show. "My parents had some dolls of A Christmas Carol, characters from that. And every Christmas, my dad had this record of an old radio show of A Christmas Carol that he would play, and I would kind of imagine my parents' dolls playing the parts; I would see that in my mind's eye."

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The current incarnation of Simpich's play is a one-man affair, with Simpich pulling the strings (random side note: That's probably the first time I've ever used that expression literally) and doing all the voices. In addition to the marionettes, Simpich himself acts as a quasi-character, playing the narrator and incorporating scene description and transitional narration from the original text, which perhaps gives the production a tad more literary touch than most adaptations get.

You're probably not going to go because it's more literary, though. You're going to go because, for real, puppets are weird. And isn't that reason enough?

The show opens at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow and continues its run through December with performances at 7 p.m. Fridays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, with a couple of special performances thrown in toward Christmas. Get the full show listing on the Westword calendar page. Shows run $14 and take place at the Simpich Showcase in Colorado Springs (see the map below); for more information, call the box office at 719-465-2492.

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