On Stage: A Christmas Carol

Nov 21, 2016

A Christmas Carol was written by Charles Dickens in a six-week flurry of inspiration. The story goes that upon visiting the industrial city of Manchester, Dickens was moved to write a tale that he hoped would help improve conditions for the poor, especially children. He hoped also to revive his career, which had fallen into a bit of a slump. He hurried it to publishers in early December 1843, and it came out in print on December 19. It has never been out of print since.

The tale of Ebenezer Scrooge is so familiar to us that it has become tradition. It has been adapted for stage, screen, ballet—and it is practically required that television sitcom characters undergo permutations of it to suit their sitcom lives. It has been richly parodied and handsomely produced again and again. It is partly responsible for turning Christmas into a day of merriment. Dickens is credited with adding elements of celebration like the gathering of family for feasting, dancing, and games, but he had found precedent in Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., which was published 20 years earlier. In it, Irving wrote warmly of the English Christmas traditions that he enjoyed while staying at Aston Hall. Like Irving, Dickens hoped that a festive season would do everybody some good.

Music Theatre for Young People is putting a musical version of A Christmas Carol onstage at Century II. You can catch the show from December 9 to December 11.

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