Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has become to the stage what Clement Clarke Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas is to fireside gatherings (at least on film and television; perhaps your own family doesn’t tend to such hominess): a harbinger of the holidays, something to imbue us with a nostalgia for Decembers past.
Which seems to indicate that those who cherish the familiar story of Ebenzer Scrooge and much-put-upon-employee Bob Cratchit and family seem to forget that Scrooge is basically terrified by ghosts into changing overnight. As G.K. Chesterton described the original tale, it is “an enjoyable nightmare.”
And that is certainly the case with Jack Thorne’s new adaptation, directed by Matthew Warchus and on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre starting November 6 starring Campbell Scott as Scrooge.
“We all get it, Scrooge is that guy,” Scott says shortly before rehearsals begin. “The guy who walks down the street and immediately you get a feeling from him, like, ‘I don’t even want to talk to them.’”
Scott is fully cognizant of the power of A Christmas Carol over our collective consciousness—as well as how intimately we know the characters.
“Everybody knows that something happens to this most extraordinary of closed-off characters,” Scott says, “and so the intriguing thing becomes how not to just show that, so that cumulatively it works on us in a certain way. The only way you take the pressure off yourself is to approach it like no one’s ever seen it before. And then you can’t take any responsibility for how people are going to react to that. There’s no battling that, and there’s no reason to attempt to. Maybe that’s the secret.”
Thorne’s script and Warchus’ direction (the production was previously seen in London with a different cast) aid greatly in that effort. Suffused with carols and co-starring Tony winners Andrea Martin and LaChanze, this Christmas Carol promises a fresh take on a twice-told tale.
But even as Scott enthusiastically discusses Thorne’s treatment of the source material, his co-stars, and his conversations with Warchus, he notes that one important ingredient won’t enter the mix until the very last minute.
“If you come in thinking you either know what to do or you absolutely know what not to do, you’re wrong in both cases,” Scott says. “And the last part is we all think we’ve got it down [together]… and then the audience comes in.”
To quote Chesterton once more, “Whether the Christmas visions would or would not convert Scrooge, they convert us.”