“A Christmas Carol” director’s notes
by Craig Johnson
Our brand-new adaptation of A Christmas Carol runs from Nov. 19 through Dec. 19. Director Craig Johnson share his notes on this production.
In 1843, Charles Dickens dashed off his short novel, “A Christmas Carol,” to make a quick buck—well, pound—for the holidays. It sold out in a week, and 13 more editions came out within a year. And it’s been making money for theaters, filmmakers, and booksellers ever since. Oh the irony, for a story about a miser!
We used two watchwords to guide this production: faithful and fresh. We wanted to remain true to all the plot points in Dickens’ story, we wanted to warmly embrace the themes of generosity and kindness, and whenever possible we wanted to retain his astonishing original language—comic, dramatic, and bracingly relevant. But we also wanted to broaden the story and try something new. So this year we follow Scrooge’s ghostly journey as a woman.
Woah! Would a woman even be able to achieve that level of wealth and power in the Victorian era? Astonishingly, nearly 30% of all businesses in England in the second half of the 19th century were owned by women! And not just small companies such as dressmakers and milliners, but a number of larger, industrial concerns. However, a successful businesswoman would still have been something of an anomaly, an outsider—and outsiders in any society have always had the deck stacked against them.
Madam Scrooge couldn’t quite be the grotesque, slovenly comic ogre in Dickens original or popular movie versions. She’d never get a foot in the door of the stock exchange. But the description: “Hard and sharp as flint, and solitary as an oyster,” captured our imagination. What if Scrooge was better dressed than anyone around her? More perfect, always, correct, endlessly exacting; keeping everyone—competitor or friend—from ever getting close. And never, ever exposing herself to any vulnerability.
That felt like a character we knew, and understood. And even if her behavior towards others was callous, harsh, and acid-tongued, we might be able to sympathize why she protected herself with such rigor. And maybe, just maybe, her transformation might be all the sweeter. Let us know how we did!
One last thought: early on, our music director Stela Burdt commented, “There is so much Christmas music created at this time, maybe people should always be singing and humming.” So you may hear snatches of hymns and carols threading throughout the show, plus a few raucous pub songs and music hall tunes to bring a little added cheer to the proceedings. Merry Christmas!