As malls become crowded, and stores cram their aisles with Christmas lights, tinsel and holiday décor, it’s hard to forget that the holidays are upon us. And just as mistletoe and “Jingle Bells” are icons of the season, so are “Bah-humbug” Mr. Scrooge and the loveable Tiny Tim of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
This Friday see A Christmas Carol brought not just to life, but to Dickens’ original grim, yet joyful vision in an adaptation by Triad Stage artistic director Preston Lane.
With a darker beginning, and the inclusion of Old English carols and video projections, Lane lives up to his reputation of presenting a traditional tale with a tasteful twist.
“I think that sometimes theaters view A Christmas Carol as just an obligation that they need to do a bright, happy holiday show, and they lose sight of the story itself,” says Lane.
“[Our version] is very faithful to the spirit of Dickens’ story, but we do interpret a few of the characters a little differently.”
Ebenezer Scrooge is one such example. The essence of the character is still the same; however, in Lane’s version audiences are taken to the very depths of Scrooge’s dark heart. “Scrooge, in this incarnation is far more crotchety,” says actor Gordon Joseph Weiss, who plays Scrooge.
As the audience follows the bitter, begrudging Scrooge on his journey with three spirits, they go through moments that are deeply grim to moments overwhelmingly filled with joy as the story culminates in a celebration of Scrooge rediscovering what it means to be human.
“The more pleasure and joy that we get from seeing Scrooge be redeemed at the end, the darker and scarier the story has to be at the beginning,” Lane says.
And right from the start, Lane sets the mood with a unique addition of children narrators, who begin the tale as if it was a ghost story. The children bring a wonderful energy into the room, and telling the story as a ghostly tale creates a frightful mood as unsettling as Scrooge’s attitude.
Helping to transfer the audience to a 19th century England are the works of sound designer David E. Smith, scenic designer Howard C.
Jones, costume designer Kelsey Hunt, lighting designer John Wolf and projection designer Nicholas Hussong.
“Kelsey is doing fantastic costuming,” Lane says, “from very traditional Victorian wear to very magical clothes for the spirits.”
Jones’ multi-level set further transforms the stage into Dickens’ snow-covered London, and Hussong’s multi-media projections detail Scrooge’s extraordinary journey with the three spirits.
“The space itself has the ability to transform pretty quickly,” Lane says, “particularly through the use of video projections, which is a rarity that will create a lot of the magic of the show.”
A unique inclusion of Old English Christmas carols, from the Victorian period or earlier, further transfer the audience back in time. “We use a lot of carols,” Lane says. “Many of them are familiar, but we’ve also added a lot of carols that audiences may not have heard before.”
With the help of sound designer and composer David E. Smith, the play is a beautiful blend of joyful carols and an emotion-erecting score, which Lane describes as “a score that is as important to the play as the words.
“It tells the story along with the actors and really sets the mood, going from church bells to the sort of music that you might associate with a ghost story, to absolutely celebratory Christmas carols,” he continues.
“There are some other productions of this going on,” Weiss says, “but not with this kind of music. It’s such a wonderful play. It’s so familyoriented. It’s a ghost story, so it does have some scary moments in it, and you see and experience something that seems so otherworldly.”
All in all, audiences are sure to be awed by the creative interpretation, and will find their holiday spirit as they watch the baleful Scrooge rediscover his heart and inner-child.
“A Christmas Carol” Pyrle Theatre 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro Runs Nov. 26- Dec. 24.
For tickets and more information call 336-272-0160 or visit triadstage.org. Tickets are sold out for Dec. 2 and Dec. 10 productions.