A Christmas Carol

It’s a dirty, grimy Industrial Age London that we’ll see in Classical Theatre’s new adaptation of A Christmas Carol. The group’s executive artistic director, John Johnston, who along with company member Matthew Keenan wrote the script, tells us they wanted to return Christmas Carol to Charles Dickens’s original rich language and dark tones. “More and more [contemporary] productions [are] about appealing to younger audiences through spectacle,” Johnston tells us. “Glitter and stage fog had replaced the language Dickens had so carefully written.”

Here, Christmas Carol begins with the rather startling line “Marley was dead.” (It’s Marley who, having been Ebenezer Scrooge’s former and equally mean-spirited business partner, first appears in ghost form to warn Scrooge to change his miserly ways or face damnation.) “To me, having an adaptation that doesn’t use ‘Marley was dead...’ is like having a stage play of Moby Dick and not opening with ‘Call me Ishmael.’ If that single fact is not plainly understood, the fantastic nature of this story is diminished. And this story is, without question, fantastic.” Johnston tells us the line, which he considers crucial, presents some narrative problems and so over the years has been dropped.

The full title of Dickens’s novella is A Christmas Carol in Prose Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, Johnston reminds us. “It’s a ghost story that happens to take place at Christmas. It’s important to me that the story be dark but that the ghosts bring light into Scrooge’s life. If it isn’t dark to begin with, there’s nowhere for the story to go. As for the story, it is serious. It’s perhaps the most sober of all stories: the reclamation of a man’s soul. That’s not to say it’s without humor, naturally, but…it is a ghost story. Ghost stories are scary. [Over the course of the story,] Scrooge is scared to the point that he completely changes his entire way of life. Of course it has a happy resolution, but it will most definitely not be a production of this story our audiences will have seen before.” James Belcher appears as Scrooge; Thomas Prior is the Narrator/Bob Cratchit.

8 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, December 22 and 23; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Through December 23. Classical Theatre Company — Chelsea Market, 4617 Montrose. For information, call 713‑963‑9665 or visit classicaltheatre.org. $25.
Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 22, 8 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 23, 8 p.m. Starts: Dec. 11. Continues through Dec. 23, 2014

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Olivia Flores Alvarez