A Christmas Carol

As soon as the last Halloween candy wrappers are swept up each year, it’s rarely a struggle to find some sort of production of A Christmas Carol to attend.

A Christmas CarolAnnual stage adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic 1843 novel have become longstanding community traditions all over the world. It’s a story told time and time again in new iterations across various mediums. In New York City alone, audiences currently can choose from three different stage versions of the show. This winter, FX is premiering a dark and gritty miniseries marketed as a mature reimagining. The Muppets Christmas Carol is finally getting well-deserved recognition as one of the best holiday films of all time. And Disney has just announced a new musical film titled Marley (which retells the tale from the perspective of the dead Jacob Marley) that already has composer Stephen Schwartz and director Bill Condon attached. 

Yet as familiar as audiences may be with A Christmas Carol, they have never seen a production of it as visually stunning or gorgeously rendered as the all-new version currently playing a limited engagement on Broadway through January 5. 

It’s instantly apparent to those entering the Lyceum Theatre that the world they are being invited into is a creation of one of the visionaries behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. In Jack Thorne’s new adaptation and under the brilliant direction of Matthew Warchus, this Christmas Carol comes to life in ways that are haunting, spectacular, and magical all at once.

What’s particularly impressive is that, though Thorne takes some liberties with Dickens’ work, his Christmas Carol remains very true to the original. Details like the addition of an abusive father in Ebenezer’s past and an enhanced subplot of love lost give the audience a deeper understanding of why Ebenezer evolved into the curmudgeon he is. It’s likely only a matter of time before Thorne gets a phone call from Todd Phillips about making this dark origin story movie. 

As she has repeatedly done elsewhere, Andrea Martin steals the show as The Ghost of Christmas Past. Her signature humor is on full display as she gives the first of Ebenezer’s three spirits a dry wit that makes every scene she’s in a laugh-out-loud delight. Similarly, LaChanze’s straight-to-the-point portrayal of The Ghost of Christmas Present shows off a comedic side that her storied career has rarely highlighted thus far.  

This is not to say this Christmas Carol is a comedy. In fact, the eerie elements of Dickens’ source material are elevated thanks to the melancholy Victorian aesthetics of Rob Howell’s innovative set – anchored by lanterns dripping with twinkles throughout the entire theater. When the ghost of Jacob Marley, restrained in shackles, appears to Ebenezer through a smoky haze at the top of the show, every audience member is left shaken to their core.

As Ebenezer, Campbell Scott is terrific. His redemption arc from bah humbug to Merry Christmas is depicted with a conviction that makes it impossible to not leave the show feeling inspired. Dashiell Eaves also gives a masterful performance as Bob Cratchit – particularly in the heart-wrenching scene in which he believes his son, Tiny Tim, has died.

A Christmas Carol

Further enhancing this beautiful production is the inclusion of Christmas standards. Though it’s not a musical, this Christmas Carol finds its actors singing twelve beloved songs like “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” The cast performs these numbers in ways that give the show an almost film-like soundtrack effect. The music is traditional, but its presentation here is unique. In fact, the moment that audiences know Ebenezer’s journey of healing has come to an end is when he embraces the music around him. 

Though A Christmas Carol may not be what first comes to mind when you think of wanting to go see something new, I promise you won’t be disappointed by this bold, exceptionally fresh take on the classic story. A visual spectacle with an emphasis on the joys of giving back, this festive production should be added to the to-do list of anyone coming to New York to experience the best holiday treats that the city has to offer. 

This renowned depiction of A Christmas Carol comes to Broadway this year after enjoying a few years as an annual tradition in London. I, for one, am keeping my fingers crossed that it keeps coming back for many, many years to come.


A Christmas Carol

Alex has been writing for PopBytes since 2011. As the Theater Editor, he focuses on all aspects of Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional Theater, and beyond. Alex lives in Western Massachusetts and can be found on Twitter at @AlexKNagorski.