Twenty Macdonough Elementary School fifth-graders and their parents are heading to Hartford Thursday to see Charles Dickens' holiday tale live on stage — starring two of their classmates.
Eli Cannon's Tap Room co-owner Phil Ouelette says Macdonough parent Ed McKeon, whose sons Dermot and Aidan McMillan are acting in the Hartford Stage production of A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas, approached him to say help was needed to fund the trip.
"I told him I'd cover it," says Ouellette, also co-owner of NoRA Cupcake Co. in Middletown and a mentor at the North End elementary school. An artist himself whose eclectic sculptures, paintings and other work adorn the walls of his two businesses, Ouellette says he enjoys "supporting the arts and keeping it local."
Thanks to his donation of tickets and transportation, half of the school's two fifth-grade classes will see the 7 p.m. show Thursday in its 16th season at Hartford Stage, which this year celebrates 50 years of Tony award-winning dramas, classic musicals, new plays and shows.
Some of these kids wouldn't have the opportunity to attend a live stage show without Ouellette's gift, which will introduce them to Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
The story line teaches an important lesson that fifth-graders will be especially able to understand — how a rich old miser who abhors Christmas transforms with the help of "ghosts" into a kind and giving man who eventually embodies the spirit of the season.
Ouellette is also a huge fan of Hartford Stage's annual holiday show and is excited for the fifth-graders to experience the magic of the stage. "They will love it. I go every year. It's an awesome show," Ouellette says.
The McMillan twins play School Boys in the production, McKeon says. This is the boys' second year in A Christmas Carol.
In January, Ouellette donated $300 worth of sports equipment to Macdonough after visiting the Middletown students and seeing a lack of good-quality balls and hula hoops for recess.
In August, Eli Cannon Tap Room's third annual Beer Gods festival proceeds were donated to Oddfellows Youth Playhouse — $1,750 from the event and an additional $500 that Ouellette contributed.
A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas runs through Dec. 28 and tickets are still on sale.