BWW Exclusive: What Makes A CHRISTMAS CAROL the Story of the Holiday Season? Theatres Around the Country Explain!
By the time December hits (and oftentimes well before), it's impossible to browse theatre listings without running across half a dozen productions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. But what makes it so long lasting? The story of Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, Tiny Tim, and the spirit(s) of Christmas seems to be told with nonstop verve.
We reached out to companies across the US and more to find out just what makes A Christmas Carol the anthem for the holiday season. See what everyone had to say below!
Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC has a 37-year history producing A Christmas Carol. Ford's Theatre Director Paul R. Tetreault says "In Charles Dickens' 175-year-old story, audiences find the ever-resonant themes of giving back and living with grace. My hope each time we present the play is that young audiences and adults alike will be motivated by the lessons of love, charity and compassion found in the story and extend those principles throughout the holiday season and into the New Year. Each time I look with fresh eyes on the play and find that the story still works its magic in new and exciting ways. A Christmas Carol is the perfect holiday celebration for the entire family."
Within Ford's producing tradition comes the commitment to charity. For the past 10 years, the company calls for donations for a local charity. This year they will support The Homeless Children's Playtime Project.
The James Library & Center for the Arts, Norwell, MA
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J.T. Turner is bringing a special twist to A Christmas Carol this year with his one-man show portrayal of the story. Even if you miss him at the James Library, Turner will be appearing in an astonishing 35 presentations of the show between December 1st and 23rd!
Turner says, "It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest stories of redemption ever. I was inspired to perform A Christmas Carol as Charles Dickens himself use to perform readings from A Christmas Carol for family and friends, and later included an excerpt from it on his tours. I do a more theatrical version, having memorized the piece, and perform it alone playing 4 ghosts, 12 men, 6 women, and 8 children!
"For the past 9 years, I have also had the great honor, of performing at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly Massachusetts, as Mr. Fezziwig, and one of the charitable gentleman in the story. I also understudy both Scrooge & Marley. That production is fantastic, it has a large cast, of 26 actors and singers, a Full Orchestra, pyrotechnics, and ghosts that fly above the audience! My solo show is just me and my voice creating multiple characters. And yet I think the power of A Christmas Carol is that you can enjoy both productions. Whether it's big and splashy and spectacular, or simple and intimate, this wonderful work by Dickens can still warm your heart."
Florida Rep, Fort Myers, FL
November 30 through December 19
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Associate Artistic Director of Florida Rep Jason Parrish says, "Florida Rep has never produced any version of Dickens' classic, and as we were putting the 21st season together, we wanted to find a new and inventive way to showcase this timeless and beloved story. We chose to work with Mark Shanahan on his new adaptation of the original Dickens. The Tale of Ebenezer Scrooge is a funny, heartwarming, and incredibly inventive retelling of the this holiday favorite. It is a love-letter to Victorian-era theatrical magic, the bonds siblings share, the power of love, family, and redemption. Mark's version of the story puts 14 professional actors - many of whom are members of our near-permanent ensemble - onstage with ten young actors from across Southwest Florida and our education programs. Also, we are excited to debut a newly written and arranged score that will be played live every night by two members of the cast on violin and piano. It really is a holiday event, and we know theatregoers of all ages will love its heartfelt message."
Goodman Theatre's A Christmas Carol is in its remarkable 41st year on the Chicago stage. "The ability to share this story each year with audiences is an enormous privilege and has unquestionably been a highlight of my life in the theater," said Executive Director Roche Schulfer. "A Christmas Carol is much more than a holiday entertainment or diversion. In fact, we believe that Charles Dickens' story promotes values that are universal-compassion, understanding, love, empathy, forgiveness and redemption. For many of our audiences, this is their first theater experience and we're continuously expanding our efforts to ensure that it is accessible to all-including our first-ever Spanish translated performance and 2nd sensory-friendly performance."
Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver, CO
November 21 through December 24
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DCPA has a longstanding tradition of performing A Christmas Carol having staged the classic 26 times in the company's 40 year history.
Artistic Director Chris Coleman says, "A Christmas Carol has been a tradition for many families over the years at the Denver Center. When I got to see this production last year, I was so excited about it. This company has put together a beautiful production and frankly, it was the best that I've ever seen of this story. Clearly this version has resonated and it continues to resonate with Denver audiences and I think it's a fabulous way to celebrate the holiday season."
Geva's production is adapted and directed by Mark Cuddy who says, "For those of us in the theater profession, we can fall into a cynical view of a theater's annual production of A Christmas Carol, especially if one isn't working on it in some way. However, the story itself is about the transformational power of imagery, memory and connection - and aren't those the basis of our art form? Audiences return to it as a tradition of shared humanity and celebration. Theater artists return to it to reignite the child inside that began their love affair with the theater. We all seem to need it."
The Players Ring, Portsmouth, NH
November 30 through December 23
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"Our production of A Christmas Carol has been a long-standing tradition at the Players' Ring, starting with an adaptation written by our founder, Gary Newton 22 years ago," explains Players' Ring Board Member and Producer Liaison Joi Smith. "In 1992, Gary and his wife Barbara created the Players' Ring Theatre in order to provide an affordable performance venue for local playwrights and fledgling production companies to bring their dreams to the stage on the New Hampshire Seacoast. In the early years, as word was getting out about the Players' Ring and its' mission to support local artists and their original works, there would be some down time between productions, so Gary would often write an original play himself to keep the audiences engaged with the theater year round and one of those productions was his adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic, A Christmas Carol. Although Gary's original script has been transformed here and there over the years, there is still a little bit of Gary's magic in each and every production, and the show serves almost as a right of passage for every new artist to experience when they begin working on the Players' Ring Stage."
Berkshire Theatre Group's Artistic Director/CEO Kate Maguire finds "the story endures because it is one of the great stories of redemption. It is a magical and mysterious tale of ghosts and enduring Dickensian characters. I cannot remember a time of such rattling civic discourse, but A Christmas Carol is an intense reminder of how good hearts and generosity can transform and lift our spirits. In only 90 minutes, the classical spirits of A Christmas Carol give revelations of love, memories of childhood innocence and acts of kindness, and we are left to contemplate our own paths forward."
Maryland Ensemble Theatre, Westminster and Frederick, MD
December 7 through December 16
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Associate Artistic Director Julie Herber took a break from her busy holiday season at MET to say, "We choose to present A Christmas Carol each year because we are drawn to the humanity of the piece. It really does feel like a gift we are giving to our audiences year after year. The warmth and appreciation we feel from those attending is equally a gift to us. Our adaptation is a visually captivating ensemble piece that embraces our mission. Our artists look forward to it each holiday season."
Grand Theatre, London, Ontario
December 5 through December 23
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Megan Watson, Director and Artistic Associate says, "This production of A Christmas Carol is enduring for many reasons, but what is most resonant with me right now is the idea of transformation. We have the capacity to change our lot in life- It is never too late! We can find joy and generosity and have a positive impact on the people around us. That desire is universal and I think that is why we return to this story."
Her colleague, Original Director and Adapter and Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum remarks, "As A Christmas Carol returns to the Grand, we are delighted to share a twist - Scrooge portrayed as a woman. This new lens allows us the opportunity to experience the story we all know so well in fresh and surprising ways and to the celebrate traditions of new and old in many forms."
KC Rep, Kansas City, MO
November 16 through December 30
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"We are entering our 38th season of producing this iconic play, and when we take the time to consider the impact and popularity of Dickens' classic novel brought to life in a live performance, it becomes apparent that his Victorian world is not so dissimilar from our own," says Interim Artistic Director Jason Chanos. "While there is prosperity and abundance in some homes, sadly there is poverty and meagerness in others. But Dickens chose not to simply compare and contrast this cultural underbelly, but instead to tell a story of transformation and redemption."
It's clear that Dickens' heartwarming story is one that is universally relatable and easy malleable, making it a thrilling endeavor for theatre companies near and far. BroadwayWorld wishes everyone happy holidays, and make sure to check out A Christmas Carol at a favorite theatre near you!