Jay Handelman

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

After the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian to Venice Theatre’s main performance space in late September, there may not have been a better story for the company to mark its comeback than its annual production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

This seasonal favorite, now in its 22nd season and already sold out, is about the transformation and rebirth of Ebenezer Scrooge from a miserly and bitter old man to one filled with love and appreciation for those around him. But the company’s family-friendly musical version also speaks to the rebirth of the theater itself.

It took only 65 days after the hurricane for the theater’s staff and volunteers to transform a former office building into a temporary performance space and to cast, design, rehearse and open the show. The new annex, which will eventually be the base for the theater’s education programs, is now home to a show filled with the joyous spirit of the season, the love of family and a message to “Count Your Blessings,” the show’s musical anthem.

A broad family made it possible for the theater to reopen, Producing Executive Director Murray Chase, and the production’s director, said before Friday’s opening night. Patrons, volunteers and staff combined to prove that Venice Theatre is “more than a building,” he added. The company has launched a major campaign to raise about $4 million for repairs, and is already nearing the first $500,000, which board members have pledged to match.