Behind the Scenes with Tyler Bellmon and Laura D. DeGiacomo from A Christmas Carol
Lisa Condit spoke with Tyler Bellmon* and Laura D. DeGiacomo* from A Christmas Carol about their roles, new changes to the show, their backgrounds in performing arts and more! Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
*Members of the Actors’ Equity Association
Lisa: Thank you all for listening to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre! This is Lisa Condit and I’m thrilled to be here in-person with Laura D. DeGiacomo and Tyler Bellman, both awesome cast members from A Christmas Carol, our favorite annual production. You both have been longtime cast members. It seems like just yesterday we started doing this, but Laura has been with us since our first production, all except for A Christmas Carol Reimagined. Plus, Tyler is celebrating ten years with us!
Tyler: Ten years! Wild, a whole decade.
Lisa: Tell our listeners just a little bit about yourselves and about your journey here at A Christmas Carol because I know you’ve seen it evolve. We’ve all seen it evolve over the last 10 to 15 years.
Tyler: Ladies first, always.
Laura: Oh, goodness, thank you so much for that. I started back in 2008 playing Belle in the first production of A Christmas Carol that was done here. I had done that for a few years, and then I switched to the track of Millie, who is Fred’s wife, and various storyteller lines and all that fun stuff throughout my time here.
Lisa: Before Tyler goes, I just want to say I love watching Laura in this production. Not only is she a fantastic actor, but your voice is beautiful and you look fantastic in every costume. Anybody who listens to this knows that I am a complete freak about the costumes.
Laura: The costumes are pretty spectacular. We are very fortunate to have had Gail Buckley on our staff for all 15 productions that have been here. She’s unbelievable. I have to say, I’ve done a number of shows over the past 25 years, and I was so lucky that my everyday Millie costume was made for me, so it fits like a glove. I’ve never felt more beautiful than at the Christmas Eve dinner with Fred in that pink dress that I get to wear and twirl about. That’s a really nice moment for me to be involved with and to feel beautiful.
Lisa: We’re going to come back to that whole scene because it’s one of my favorites, it’s one that you wouldn’t expect to see in A Christmas Carol with the rest of the show. Tyler, tell us a little bit about you and your journey.
Tyler: I auditioned in 2011 and that was my first year. I know everybody’s counting, and they’re like, “That doesn’t add up because you said you’ve been here for 10 years.” I took one year off and then didn’t do Reimagined. So, 10 years but 12 years in total. I auditioned in 2011, lied to Troy and told him that I had local housing which I didn’t. I got cast and then panicked. I called my best friend’s parents who live here in Worcester and asked them if I could stay with them for a month and a half. They were like, “Sure!” I started that year and .played young Ebenezer. I was young Eb for two or three years, then I graduated to Bob Cratchit. I played Bob Cratchit for four or five years. Last year, we got to graduate yet again to Fred, which has been a lot of fun. Personally, I think that Fred fits me like a glove. I’ve always felt a little jealous of people who have played Fred before because they just get to have fun.
Lisa: It’s a great role!
Tyler: I just get to mess around on stage, which Lord knows I love to do.
Lisa: It’s funny because both of your characters are very joyous for the most part, and that’s not necessarily what people think of when they think of A Christmas Carol. The scene that we’re talking about on Christmas Eve is one of the most beautiful scenes that has also evolved. You do some beautiful choreography. Tell our listeners or people who may not have seen A Christmas Carol before, what are some of the fun things that happen? You’re right, it’s a lot of fun to watch on stage.
Laura: Yeah! Our scene starts with this really beautiful waltz to “Greensleeves” with all these gorgeous gowns flowing. All different pretty colors mixing and it opens up on Fred and Millie’s Christmas Eve party where they play silly games with their silly friends.
Tyler: That scene, even when I wasn’t in it, it was always one of my favorites. It’s one of those scenes that allows actors to just kind of let loose on stage. A lot of the times, we see actors trying to be polished professionals, but that scene really lends itself because we are playing games. So, it lends itself to allow us as actors and friends to really play games every night while we’re on stage together.
Lisa: Totally fun! There’s so much singing that happens in this production, too. That’s one of the things that I feel really differentiates us from other Christmas Carols. Talk to us a little bit about that part of the production. What are some of your favorite songs to sing? I know there are a lot.
Tyler: It’s really fascinating because I remember coming in 2011 and everybody just started singing the score, because everyone knew it at that point. It’s always a little intimidating for a first-year actor who’s joining this company to get in a room with people and just hear everybody sing the song and you’re like, “Whoa, I have to catch up and learn all of this.” You’re right, there’s a lot of singing in the show. I think one of my favorites is “In the Bleak Midwinter” which the Ghost of Christmas Past sings on stage, but then the adult ensemble takes over on the backstage mic. There’s something about that song, it’s haunting but also lovely.
Laura: That’s a beautiful song, it’s one of my favorites too. I’m very lucky in that I have a solo moment in one of the songs, which is very different this year than it has been in years past. At least as of now, my solo is even a little bit longer which is very nice for me.
Tyler: Laura loves a longer song.
Laura: It’s a mix of two songs that are taking place at the same time. I sing the opening moment of “Coventry Carol,” for those that are familiar with it. It’s such a beautiful song and haunting at the same time. That’s one of my personal favorites to sing, selfishly, because I have that moment. That’s my moment, my Millie moment on stage! But I also love “In the Bleak Midwinter” and we do a lot of offstage singing as well, which people may think, “I hear voices, but I don’t see anyone.” We are actually huddled together around a microphone backstage, being conducted to sing those Carols. You might think, “Is that really live?” And it is really live!
Lisa: It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the production as well. It always makes me happy when I hear it. One of the best parts of the year is when you’re all rehearsing in the room next to where all of our offices are.
Tyler: Yeah, what is that like for you?
Lisa: I love it because I am a Christmas fanatic. Of course, this is Troy Siebels adaptation, so it’s very special to all of us. It’s so joyful and it gets us right into the holiday spirit. I love hearing you all rehearse and I love hearing that singing. I love “Ding Dong Merrily on High.” I also love the end of the show. There are so many great moments that people get to experience. Laura, you mentioned one thing about a shift or a change for this year. You have both seen a lot of changes in this production. If one of our listeners thinks to themselves, “Oh, I saw that a few years ago, I saw that 10 years ago or I saw the first one so I’m all set,” I can think of a zillion things that have changed since the very first time it was on The Hanover Theatre stage. I’m interested in both of your perspectives, what are some of the key things that you’ve seen develop and what are your favorite changes?
Tyler: Like you mentioned, there are a lot of changes but I think it’s always fun to come in with a new Scrooge. A new Scrooge is going to give you something completely different. How many Scrooges have you had?
Laura: I think this is Scrooge number four.
Tyler: This is my fourth as well. We’ve seen the progression of different types of Scrooges and different takes. It really is Scrooge’s story. We’re following him, but also seeing how a different Scrooge affects everyone else.
It’s really so interesting to see John Little, who’s playing Scrooge this year, work because we can see his take on the character and how it affects me as Fred, how it affects Sriram Emani as Bob and how it affects the Cratchit family. That’s one big change.Tyler Bellmon
Lisa: I love that scene in the accounting house when Fred comes in and he invites Scrooge to the Christmas Eve dinner. Of course, Scrooge is who he is. Fred just remains ever so positive, and I love the play between Bob Cratchit and Fred. I have noticed a big difference in the way that different Scrooges handle that scene and the sense of humor that comes out. What are some of the specific moments or ways that you see John processing how he’s playing Scrooge and the impact that it has? Is there another scene besides the accounting house or?
Tyler: The accounting house scene is interesting for me having played both Bob and Fred.
Lisa: I bet!
Tyler: It’s interesting to see how I have seen Scrooges’ different takes with both characters. Back in the day, we had Jeremy Lawrence and Andrew Crowe. Both lovely human beings, can’t talk better about them both. Their Scrooge and Fred relationship was so much different than mine and John’s is. Andrew definitely was more proper and poise and was well-spoken. I think that my Fred is more mischievous and likes to poke and pick on Scrooge a little bit.
Lisa: Like only the good relatives can.
Tyler: Exactly. It’s definitely interesting to watch him in that scene and how my relationship is different with him than it is with the Bob this year.
Lisa: How about you, Laura?
Laura: There have been so many changes. With a new Scrooge, the energy is different in places that maybe Jeremy may have played it one way. When Fred comes in during that first interaction at the accounting house with the two gentlemen coming in, that interaction is just so different.
I do think that having a new Scrooge shapes the whole piece. Every actor has to find that inner Scrooge for himself. I think that’s a huge shift in tone and how different each character is.Laura D. DeGiacomo
Lisa: It is interesting, Laura, because the characters you play almost have a side relationship with Scrooge. It’s not a direct relationship with Scrooge, so it’s more observation and feeling. I always think that your role as Millie, you’re protective of Fred and that’s the love of your life, right?
Laura: Millie really doesn’t have a ton of scene work with Scrooge. She only has that one real interaction with Scrooge at the very end of the piece where he finally acknowledges her, and I’ve sort of created my own little backstory. I don’t think Scrooge came to our wedding. I think he really has no patience for Fred being married and the fact that he’s as joyful and in love with his wife, I think he envies that because he has that because he lost his chance with Belle. He gave that all up. I think that that really turned him into the person that he became because he never had that. I think that he resents that a lot. The first time he’s ever interacted with me is after the transformation scene in the very end, in the middle of “Ding Dong,” when he says, “Oh, you know, the smartest thing you ever did was to marry this…”
Lisa: I love that.
Laura: Yeah. That, to me, is unbelievable. When we’re talking about him at the party, I really don’t have any patience left for Scrooge, because Fred tries every year to go to him and ask him to come and he absolutely refuses. She’s like, “Listen, I can’t talk about him anymore. That’s it.”
Lisa: I think we can all relate to that. What’s interesting to me is that you have played the major love interest of both Fred and Scrooge. What’s the difference there? What’s your backstory for Belle?
Laura: That scene is such heartbreak.
Tyler: I think it’s Troy’s favorite scene.
Lisa: Really? Tell us more!
Tyler: We haven’t really talked about this much, but I remember when I was playing Young Scrooge, so much emphasis was put on that scene and so much direction put into it.
Tyler: Do you agree?
Laura: Yeah, so much specificity to that scene because that’s the end of Act One. It’s the breakup scene, as we call it.
Tyler: I also think that it is the scene that really starts the change for Scrooge.
Tyler: That’s another scene that we can go back to and say, “It’s interesting to see the way that different Scrooges play that.” Yes, sometimes it is so internal and heartbroken and other times, it is very defensive and dismissive, and I’m shutting down the walls.
Lisa: Absolutely. How does John play it? How would you describe it?
Tyler: John is just open as a scene partner, as open as he can be. He literally takes anything that you give him and will react to it. Troy was like, “I wonder if there’s times that you can look over to your younger self”, and John was like, “I actually think that focus needs to be on Belle because that is the love of my life. That is the moment where Scrooge actively lets one thing go that he shouldn’t.” To just have that whole scene looking into the eyes of the love of your life is beautiful.
Lisa: Wow, I just got goosebumps a little bit!
Laura: Yeah, it’s such a great scene. It’s so powerful.
Lisa: It is. I’m curious, how you describe this show to your friends and family every year when you’re doing it? Do you describe it differently? What are you excited to share with them this year?
Laura: I think every year I’ve described it differently, because it is different. Several years in a row, there were a lot of cast members that returned and then went on to do other things. You never know what the new cast and new energy is going to bring to it. I feel like every year I’ve described it as slightly different.
Lisa: One of the things that I’ve noticed is that the adults that tend to be in this production are highly professional, highly trained and talented. Troy also seems to have a great eye for the children he selects to be in his productions, and we know that many of them have gone on to Broadway. I always brag about Troy in that way. I’m curious how the children this year are influencing the production because they have a huge impact on the energy.
Laura: In all honesty, I really haven’t seen all the children and all the scenes yet. We run through in different little sequences, so I haven’t seen them quite as much. I don’t know if you’ve seen them more, Tyler.
Tyler: I haven’t seen them more, but I will say that I think that with any production of A Christmas Carol, the kids are the heart of it.
Back in the day when I was playing Bob Cratchit, we had a little Tiny Tim. I remember sitting backstage with him and the look on his eyes when we first moved into the theatre was pure amazement. I remember I specifically said to myself that this is the reason why I do this.Tyler Bellmon
Tyler: You can’t forget the fun. It is fun for them, but it’s also work for them.
Lisa: It’s a lot of work!
Tyler: A lot of work. This group seems to be doing great. Like Laura said, we haven’t been able to see them in all of their big scenes yet, but so far, the vibe is just all fun.
Lisa: Awesome. Back to the question of, how do you describe this year’s production to your friends and family?
Tyler: There’s going to be something new every single year. This year, we have introduced a lot more diversity like we did last year. This year has some twists and turns that developed on top of introducing a more cultural outlook of London in the 1800s. I think that audiences will be surprised and excited to see a different perspective of the show than they might expect.
This year, we have introduced a lot more diversity like we did last year. This year has some twists and turns that developed on top of introducing a more cultural outlook of London in the 1800s.Tyler Bellmon
Lisa: Right. I think that’s an interesting point we were talking with Alka in a different conversation. I love that there are so many ways that Troy, the cast and the creative teams add a fresh point of view every year. I also heard a rumor that there’s a new Ghost of Christmas Future situation happening. Any spoilers?
Tyler: We haven’t seen it yet.
Lisa: Oh, you haven’t even seen it yet? What have you been told?
Tyler: We’re very excited We’ve heard that that all of the fingers are supposed to move.
Laura: More intricate. He’ll point, and maybe he might be able to lift certain things.
Tyler: He might be able to grab things.
Laura: Before, it was more of a puppet controlled with different mechanics underneath his costume. Now it seems as if his fingers might be more articulated. Mark Linehan is playing him, and it seems like he might be able to use the fingers in a more intricate way than he has been able to.
Tyler: Still scary and still terrifying, but just with a little extra horror.
Lisa: It’s funny because this show really has something for everyone. We were talking about that this morning in the communications team. It’s that festive, traditional holiday favorite for families to go to, but what about those adolescent boys? What about the younger audiences? There’s something for them too. There are some pretty terrifying moments in this production. The special effects are unbelievable when you think about where it’s coming from. We know the magic of what’s happening behind stage, but the effects are fantastic.
Laura: It is a ghost story at the heart of it. He’s haunted by three spirits, it is supposed to be scary. Marley’s first entrance, even though I know it’s coming, I still jump because it’s a bit jarring if you’re not ready for it. I think all of all of the spirits certainly bring their own excitement to the piece in a different way. But, it is a ghost story.
Tyler: There’s nothing better than that. We do a lot of student matinees, right?
Lisa: Yes. They’re sold out, by the way.
Tyler: Great! I love a student matinee because you always get different reactions with a student matinee than you do with a night audience.
Lisa: I bet.
Tyler: As soon as the lights go down, we’re at a rock concert. When Ghost of Christmas Future appears, it’s terrifying. There are audible screams and it’s fun to hear an audience react that way. It’s great.
Lisa: Oh, I love both of your joy so much. It’s such a nice feeling and vibe, and it comes out on the stage too. What do you do the rest of the year?
Laura: Well, it depends on the year. I was fortunate enough to be in a play right before this. I usually do a lot of musical theater, mostly musicals, but I had an opportunity to be cast in a play. It was an original piece called Jonathan that was done with Moonbox Productions. I currently don’t have anything lined up next, but maybe Tyler does!
Tyler: I don’t!
Laura: The joy of being an actor!
Tyler: I am auditioning constantly and working when I get a gig, that sort of thing. I also work full-time. I am a staffing manager and product development manager at a company that focuses on team building for corporate companies in New York City. I’m balancing a full-time job plus rehearsals at the moment. It’s a lot.
Lisa: You’ve got the energy for it, though.
Tyler: I do. But also, this is my third cup of coffee today.
Lisa: We have a Conservatory as part of our organization, so I’d love it if you could just give a couple of nuggets of advice to any of our students or other potential actors who are listening to you. You both have been doing this for a very long time. How old were you when you both started?
Laura: I think I started dancing when I was about four or five. It was my junior year in high school that I auditioned for my first musical. They needed someone that could dance and could read music. I also played flute, so reading music wasn’t an issue. I always liked to sing but I was never in chorus, I just enjoyed it. I was 16 or 17 during my first musical. Once I did that show, that was it.
Lisa: There was no going back.
Laura: There was no going back! I continued with dance and was still a bun-head all through high school and beyond. My first show that I got cast in when I was in New York. I had been barely living there for a month and I got cast and went to a production of Phantom of the Opera that was done in Europe.
Laura: I think that my biggest advice is just try not to get discouraged early on. There’s going to be a million people that say, “No, no, you’re not quite what we’re looking for yet.” You just have to keep at it.
You just have to keep at it and believe in yourself. Get as much training as you can, take the lessons, go to classes, learn the things and read the books because eventually, it will pay off in the end.Laura D. DeGiacomo
Tyler: That was very well said. My story is very similar to Laura’s. I started my first professional production or musical was when I was 11. I played Friedrich in The Sound of Music which I loved. I was hooked at that point. I grew up doing theater and took classes from a venue very similar to the Conservatory. I grew up in Oklahoma, so there’s equity theater there that has a conservatory-type program. I took classes growing up all through that. I went to college at Emerson College.
Laura: We both went to Emerson, just didn’t ever cross over.
Tyler: We both graduated from Emerson with a BFA in Musical Theater and moved to the city right after. The rest is history. I think that my biggest piece of advice for people who want to do this is to find another job that that supports your work and your creative side. Let’s stop calling it a survival job, because you shouldn’t have to survive. You should have a job or something to support you and what you love to do. Don’t lose the joy of it.
Lisa: Great pearls of wisdom you two. I was actually thinking when you were talking about doing corporate training, how the skills that you learn as an actor 100% transfer to that type of role. In fact, I often tell people when it comes to dance, because I also danced and my daughter danced and I am way better behind the scenes than on stage. But, it doesn’t matter if you actually perform on stage ever as an adult. The skills you learn, the discipline you learn, the ability to take constructive criticism and the ability to make shifts and changes in your behavior or your body position, those are skills that will serve you well in addition to having the self-confidence and the communication skills to speak in public. Those are skills that are not often taught in widespread curriculum that is supported by research, to prove that people who study performing arts and participate have that leg up. For the adults listening, it is worth the money that you are paying for your children to pursue any and every artistic pursuit that they are interested in.
Tyler: I did theater with a friend of mine growing up all through middle through high school, and he is now a plastic surgeon. I was talking to him maybe six months ago, and he was like, “I still go back to the training that we did in acting class when I have to communicate with people, to let them know what their nose is going to look like when I’m done with it.”
Laura: It’s a life skill.
Lisa: Absolutely. And I will tell everybody listening that as somebody who hires people, I also look for people who have taken any kind of lessons in music, or dance or theater, because it’s that work ethic that gets rewarded early on that also transfers really well.
Laura: Just like you said, the discipline that you can learn in any of the arts can apply to anything that you do later on. It’s so important to have that, and it is a learned skill. You get out what you put into it.
Lisa: Yes. The fact that you really are working as a team, you’re all coming together and you’re working on different aspects of a full production that the public then gets the joy to see.
Tyler: I also think that a lot of training programs teach people how to work as a team, right?
Lisa: That’s right.
Tyler: That’s where the theater and the arts come into play that you can take that into the corporate world. I hear that all the time in my job, “You’re so good at getting people on the same page.” I’m like, “We’re just a team trying to accomplish the same thing.” How we’re doing it may be different, but your position may be a director, and my position may be a choreographer, we’re still trying to tell the same story. If that can translate to the corporate world even better.
Lisa: Absolutely. Back to A Christmas Carol right before we have to wrap it up, anything else you want to tell our listeners? Tickets, of course, are available at TheHanoverTheatre.org.
It really is such an honor to work at The Hanover Theatre every single year. I have loved my 10 years. It is just like a family here.Tyler Bellmon
Tyler: I love every single person that I work with in that room and outside that room. So, thank you for having us.
Laura: I would agree. I also have had such an incredible experience these 14 years. Working with Troy has been the holiday gift that keeps on giving for me and I’m very, very thankful to have had all this time together.
Lisa: Well, we are thankful for both of you, the whole rest of the cast and creative team. Again, we have A Christmas Carol coming to The Hanover Theatre December 17-23, generously sponsored by our partners at Assumption University. We do have some great seats still available. Tickets start at just $28 which is great. I sincerely invite everybody to come and join us. It’s a wonderful experience. If you haven’t seen it here before, you really have not seen A Christmas Carol. There’s nothing like the experience of coming here to downtown Worcester, our wonderful volunteers, the actors on the stage and of course the pre-show with the Mighty Wurlitzer is also super fun. You won’t believe the sounds that come out of that instrument. Everything from sleigh bells to horse hooves clapping. It has more pipes than we have seats in the theatre! Everybody we look forward to seeing you here at The Hanover Theatre December 17-23. Tyler and Laura, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you for taking the time out of your very busy rehearsal schedule.
Tyler and Laura: Thank you for having us!
Lisa: Thank you for listening to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. Until next week, stay safe and we’ll see you at the theatre.