KCPS Students Perform in KC Rep 'A Christmas Carol'
The lights dimmed, and the Christmas bells began to chime. A moment later, actors in Victorian costumes bounded through the theater, full of cheer.
Among them was Topher Rauth, a sophomore at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, performing in the KC Rep’s holiday tradition, “A Christmas Carol.”
As part of the youth cast, Topher has three roles. He plays Teen Scrooge opposite Gary Neal Johnson, one of Kansas City’s most respected actors. He appears as Ignorance, one of the wretched children that represents the poor and downtrodden in Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic. And at the end of the play, Topher’s character buys a turkey at Scrooge’s behest and delivers it to Bob Cratchit’s family.
“Theater in general has been a way for me to have fun and express myself,” Topher said. “It’s really helped me a lot in school, too, memorization-wise —and being committed to something.”
Lincoln Middle School student Cameron James Ritchie is also in this year's production of "A Christmas Carol." He plays Peter, one of the Cratchit children, and Wilkins, an apprentice accountant who worked alongside Scrooge in happier times.
"Cameron is taking on all challenges," according to his cast bio. "He is continuing his education musically and dramatically. (He) has also found a new love for comedy, which has energized all family gatherings."
This year's "A Christmas Carol," the first performance at Spencer Theatre in nearly two years, incorporates a lot of humor. But there are somber moments, too, like when the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to see how London's poor are spending Christmas Eve.
That's when Scrooge encounters one of Topher's characters.
“Ignorance doesn’t have any lines. His whole character is to warn Scrooge: ‘If you don’t change your ways, ignorance and want are going to kill you, and Tiny Tim will die as well,’” Topher said.
Right before Ignorance appears, the cast is onstage singing a candlelit carol. Then it’s a quick costume change for Topher before he’s back, crawling out from under the Ghost of Christmas Present’s robes to torment the miserly Scrooge.
“During Candlelight Carol, in the back of my mind, I’m always thinking about Ignorance,” Topher said.
Even with two youth casts performing in “A Christmas Carol,” Topher said it’s been tricky to keep up with his schoolwork.
“I have some catching up to do. Luckily, I have a supportive family that’s pushing me through to get it done. And my teachers have been very understanding. I know I can always reach out to them,” Topher said.
Topher’s friends are supportive, too. He started at Lincoln last year during the pandemic and immediately found friends even though he hadn’t gone to elementary or middle school with any of his classmates.
“I just want to encourage everyone at Lincoln to be yourself,” Topher said. “Try not to care as much what other people think of you and just enjoy your high school experience.”
"A Christmas Carol" runs through Dec. 26. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the KC Rep box office at 816-235-2700. Topher performs with the Ivy youth cast. Cameron performs with the Holly cast.