A Christmas Carol: A Very Short Review

by Brenda W. Clough

ChristmasCarol I discovered recently that my son has never seen or read A Christmas Carrol. As an English major and a writer, I feel I have neglected him sadly. Also, although he was born and has lived within twenty miles of the site, he has never seen Ford’s Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. This state of affairs cannot be tolerated, and luckily I was able to deal with both issues by taking him to see the annual holiday production of A Christmas Carol there.

After the assassination the theater was closed, and used as warehouse space for more than a hundred years. It was only refurbished and reopened as a performance space in 1968. I remember attending one of the first productions there, Godspell on tour. Over the years they’ve restored the theater to almost exactly what it was when Lincoln visited it. (All the usual handicap access and electrical additions may be assumed.) The President’s Box is as it was on April 14, 1865, and a delicious legend (promulgated I am certain by the theater management) is that on occasion you may glimpse a tall top-hatted shadow, in the back of the box.

President Box

I am almost certain that the ghost of Mr. Lincoln does not need to catch A Christmas Carol. Ford’s has been running this production during the holiday season since 2009, and it’s a consistent sell-out show. After all these years of honing and polishing it is just about a perfect show. All the essential Dickens material is there, plus a good many dances, added Christmas carols and English folk songs, and a good modern dollop of PC. Have a look up at that photograph of the Ghost of Christmas Present there — isn’t she perfect?

And there’s a reason why this book is Dickens’ most popular work. We need to hear this, and once a year is not too often: that it is essential to our humanity to love each other. That society only works, if we care for our fellows. That love is bigger than hate, that a big heart is a better treasure than gold. Dickens was no fan of established religion, and A Christmas Carol has no references to the birth of Christ at all. But he hung onto the most important message.

It is hard to imagine a better way to celebrate the holidays, and the entire run usually sells out in a heartbeat. It is hard to imagine how they could extend the run — already they start before Thanksgiving and go until New Year’s Eve. But I could imagine them packing the house for six months, easy. Well worth catching — they’ll do it forever, so all you need to do is be in DC anywhere near the holiday season.

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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires.
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10 Responses to A Christmas Carol: A Very Short Review

  1. Reminder: time for my annual re-read/watch of the Patrick Stewart movie/watch of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. Yes, I do tend to overdo things a little at this time of year.

  2. My favorite version is “Scrooge” with Albert Finney. It’s a musical. I’m a sucker.

    Patrick Stewart is a marvel, but I do enjoy the music when the lyrics enhance the story not just engorge it.

  3. Somewhere else on this blog I’ve noted that that’s the true mark of a classic — when there are many versions of it in different art forms, and more appearing every year. There’s a reason why this is Dickens’ most popular work, and unquesitonably it is the one for which he is best known today. Even things like the Dickens Fair, out in San Francisco — they do it in December. Because what about Tiny Tim? You can’t have Tiny Tim in July.

    • The Dickens Fair (daughter and proto-Son-in-Law are both performers there) takes as its conceit that it’s Christmas Eve in London in… 1855? 1860?. The whole Christmas Carol story plays out in scenes over the day throughout the fair–dancing at Fezziwigs, Scrooge being led about by the ghosts, the tearful finale (yes, with Tiny Tim) just before closing. There is more Dickens than that, of course; the fair is choc-a-block with Dickensian characters. But overall it strives for that warmth-in-the-dark-of-Winter quality that I think of as belonging to Christmas Carol.

  4. pence says:

    Years ago on Christmas day one of the Boston NPR stations used to broadcast a recording of Edwin Booth reading the story. It was a bit scratchy with age, but a pleasant ritual for me.

  5. Pati Nagle says:

    Every writer should see The Man Who Invented Christmas. Fantastic movie about Dickens writing and publishing A Christmas Carol. The writer =really understands= the writer’s life, and portrays it very well.

    • Oh, I’ve read that. I was sufficiently inspired to put him into the current novel, which is set exactly in his period. There’s masses of stuff about Dickens, who had a very -creative- life.

  6. Kristine says:

    My favorite Scrooge is Alastair Sim. Sometimes the film runs on the local PBS station, but I bought the DVD years ago to make sure I get my viewing. Sim is wonderful, but so are many of the supporting roles. Hermione Baddeley. Patrick McNee (his first film role iirc).

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