As an actor of live theater, you must always prepare for the unknown — a missed line, a malfunctioning prop, even a faulty microphone. Or in the case of the Guthrie’s opening night of “A Christmas Carol” — a collapsed audience member.

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As the Ghost of Christmas Past, Tracey Maloney had just flown on to the stage when she faintly heard a member of the audience call for a doctor. They quickly discovered a man had collapsed in the crowd. They stopped the show and medical professionals were called.

“That was terrifying. Everything ended up being fine but it was so scary,” Maloney said.

About 20 minutes later, the man was carried out on a stretcher but not before giving the audience a wave of relief.

“He sat up and kind of waved to people, so it was the hugest relief that he seemed to be coherent and on his way to being fine, but it was terrifying,” she said.

They resumed the show to a grateful and gracious audience. After six years of performing in Guthrie’s “Christmas Carol,” that was certainly a first for Maloney. And yet, it may have brought the story even closer to home.

The classic tale focuses on big-picture issues like life and humanity, while analyzing our past, present and future. The familiar story comes to life with the same script of previous years but with a new director, Joe Chvala.

(credit: Michael Brosilow)

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“He’s primarily a choreographer, a dancer, so the story is basically the same but he’s brought a lot of interesting movement to it and really heightened the dances,” she said. “I think it’s just great, fun and exciting. A lot of the transitions from moving from scene-to-scene are just really artfully constructed because that’s what he does and he does it really well.”

Unlike other shows she’s been in, Maloney said this show has a number of familiar faces returning year after year — including a few extremely familiar faces to Maloney.

Maloney’s husband, Kris L. Nelson, plays the lovable Bob Cratchit with their niece, Ella Nelson, playing Cratchit’s daughter Belinda.

“It’s great,” she said. “It’s great to ride in with him, it’s great to ride home and do different things during the show.”

Speaking of family, Maloney said it’s a true treat to be able to be a part of something that serves as such a great, annual tradition for the holidays.

“It’s fantastic. There’s this one group in particular. They come with 60 family members, they all wear these red holiday vests and they take up the front row and they love it,” she said. “It’s really nice to be able to bring this story to people and that it’s a tradition for some families.”

This is the 38th annual production of “A Christmas Carol” and one, according to Maloney, that shouldn’t be missed.

“It’s a beautiful show and I hope people come out and see it because it’s really a wonderful, fun, important story.”

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“A Christmas Carol” runs through Dec. 29 at The Guthrie. For tickets and more information, click here.