A Christmas Carol started out as Victorian morality play based off Charles Dickens childhood, but you probably know it from the literally innumerable adaptations that have become like A Wonderful Life or How the Grinch Stole Christmas, crowding our television channels in increasing number until the 25th of December before vanishing off the airwaves in a puff of smoke to never be played again until next year. And for a brief period last week, you could see Mac Theatre’s take on the classic, as a musical. I’d like to tell you who adapted it to stage, but there have been around twenty-six musical’s adaptations, so I can’t tell you.
Now, if you’re doing a musical, it’s very important that you remember that musicals are over the top. Musicals are not about subtlety. They’re about the spectacle. Bright lights, bright colors, singing, dancing. You don’t want too much action on stage, because then it becomes confusing and hard to focus on the main cast and what’s actually going on on-stage, but you always want to have something memorable going on.
In Christmas Carol, almost all the numbers felt the same. The extras face the audience and sing the chorus, maybe do a little twirl, turn and look at each other a couple times, and whoever is leading the song stands in the middle and gestures. There are two musical numbers I really remember; when Marley, Stooges dead partner, comes back as a ghost with a group of other ghosts dancing and grabbing at Scrooge and all this other, interesting stuff, and the scene in the past where young Scrooge and Emily are at the ball and all the extras do something else beyond shuffling their feet. Other than that everything was pretty much the same.
The leads were completely dull; Scrooge has always been exceedingly dull because he was purposefully written as a completely one-dimensional character, but even Young Scrooge (played by Christian Parish) in flashbacks was dull, and we never really see his start of darkness, we’re just kind of told about it happening, even when it’s supposed to be happening right in front of us. The Spirits of Christmas Past and Present weren’t really given anything to do besides talk and sing, so they just kind of stand around. Future doesn’t talk, and just kind of points at stuff, and isn’t foreboding or scary at all.
The set was creative, and definitely the strongest part of the performance, but even that had a big flaw. You see, most of the play takes place around a big rotating platform that represents Scrooges room. But rather than have crew member’s dressed in black to move it around, so as not to distract from what’s going in the play (there’s no intermission, by the way, it’s all just one act), actors in costume spin it and push it around, which gets really confusing when they’re just standing there when a numbers going on, like in the Marley scene. Seriously, they just stood there.
A Christmas Carol was a lackluster musical, which was probably why it was barely advertised and only ran for three days. Hopefully, next year it’ll be better.