Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Lyceum Theatre

By Jonathan Spira on 26 November 2019
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“A Christmas Carol” is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miser whose surname has become synonymous with penny-pinching, and whose transformation into a kinder soul after visits by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, has entered the annals of storytelling as a favored plot device.

Charles Dickens’ novella, published in 1843, was almost immediately adapted into a play although Dickens himself held well-received readings of it until his death in 1870. It has since been adapted into a movie, an opera, a Broadway musical, and multiple animated feature films.

The latest adaptation is one conceived by the playwright Jack Thorne and the director Matthew Warchus, who have brought about a tale for the late 2010s.

It is important to note that Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” at a time when the British were re-evaluating past Christmas traditions, such as carols and the Christmas tree, and he had become indignant at the treatment of the poor, notably street children, and the exploitation of child labor.  Such messages come through as do newer ones channeled by the 2019 “Carol” starring Campbell Scott as Scrooge, a role his father, George C. Scott, played in the 1984 film version of the story.


For this “Carol,” the Lyceum Theatre has been transformed into a Christmas market where theatergoers are greeted by Victorian-era inspired carolers on stage and walking the aisles with baskets of Clementines and cookies from Tate’s Bake Shop for the audience.  Miss a tossed Clementine at your own risk!  This creates a festive mood and hints that the experience to come will be somewhat immersive as well.  This is not just the ensemble that’s out there with the goodies: we spied Andrea Martin, the Ghost of Christmas Past, among the carolers, as well as LaChanze, the delightful  Jamaican-accented Ghost of Christmas Present.

The theater has been transformed so that the stage extends well into the orchestra section and the entire theater is aglow in Victorian lanterns, with set and costumes by Rob Howell and lighting and lanterns by Hugh Vanstone.

Scrooge is busy at his desk, ingeniously made up of boxes that will be disassembled and used later on for other purposes, and has no patience for the carolers who arrive at the door of Scrooge and Marley.  “I need those singing creatures kept away from my door,” he cries at his longtime clerk, Bob Cratchit (Dashiell Eaves).  But the carols never quite end, in music arranged by Christopher Nightingale. 

While there’s little need to revisit the staves of the story (which is how Dickens referred to chapters), it’s worthy of mention to note that, in Throne and Warchus’ “Carol,” Scrooge is on the couch revisiting his relationship with his abusive father (Chris Hoch, who also plays Scrooge’s dead partner, Marley, accessorized with clattering chains).

Indeed, “Carol” has seen updates and adaptations over the years and this version is no exception. Scrooge’s visits to the miners and lighthouse keepers have long been forgotten while his visit to the Cratchits on Christmas Day was never envisioned by Dickens but is now a key element of the parable.

Scrooge never sees the spirits again but he becomes a kind beneficent employer to Bob Cratchit, a loving uncle to his nephew, and a father figure to Tiny Tim, WHO DID NOT DIE.

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God bless Us, Every One!”


A Christmas Carol
Lyceum Theatre
149 W 45th Street
New York, N.Y. 10036

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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