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Daring Dickens

Central Square Theater breathed new life into ‘A Christmas Carol’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Daring Dickens
Central Square Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” — PHOTO: MAGGIE HALL

Central Square Theater’s “A Christmas Carol” presented Dickens like you’ve never seen him before. The show weaved the author’s classic tale set in Victorian London with puppetry, live music, audience participation and a diverse cast to bring a new whimsy and magic to the tale. The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater, the two main residents of the Central Square Theater, jointly produced the show.

The classic story follows the miserly and miserable Ebenezer Scrooge as ghosts visit him to reveal his past, present and future and to impart to him the importance of kindness. When it becomes clear that Scrooge will die angry and alone if he continues on his current path, he embraces a happier, more loving attitude. Dickens wrote the short novel in 1843, but its message of generosity and the Christmas spirit has been popular ever since. In this adaptation, the setting was the town square and the audience surrounded the stage. “When the audience walks into the theater, they are part of the set,” says director Debra Wise. A mural on set depicted Victorian London but had been spray painted over with graffiti taken from contemporary London to illustrate the modernity of the show.

Wise encouraged viewers to come to the show even if they thought they’d seen “A Christmas Carol” before — because they hadn’t seen this. “This time of year has always been a time of year when magical thinking is allowed,” says Wise. And the cast and crew of this production has taken that magical thinking and created an entirely new rendering of “A Christmas Carol.”

The cast featured Ramona Lisa Alexander as Marley, Kortney Adams as Belle and Vincent Ernest Siders as the Ghost of Christmas Present, among many other talents. Five child actors also performed throughout the show, bringing a lively energy to the stage. Many cultural influences were brought into the production: Ernest Siders’ Ghost of Christmas Present was from Trinidad and was accompanied by music played on a steel drum. India, with its colonial connection to London, was also brought in.  “We wanted to create a world that reminded us of Dickensian England but that represented our current communities,” says Wise.

Wise hoped that audience members would be inspired, not only by the changes in Scrooge, but by the show’s adaptation. She says, “If you live by your heart instead of by the predominant cultural mores, you’re bound to seem different. I hope that when people bound out of the theater that they carry that openness with them.”

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