BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Second only to Shakespeare when it comes to inspiring liberal (often horrendous) adaptations, there really is no excuse for going rogue on Charles Dickens’ beautifully structured tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s overnight conversion from stingy misanthrope to kind and generous soul.
The Ghost of Christmas Present, and Scrooge, from the Literally Alive production of…you know. PHOTO BY KELLY MARSH
Mr. Magoo and Alastair Sim did very well by the source material, while Fred Flintstone and Kelsey Grammer dropped the ball. As for 2013’s bumper crop of NYC stage productions vying for your hard-earned shillings (and their own place in the cannon of “Carol” lore), three Downtown takes on the Dickens classic caught our attention. Let’s all make a Christmas wish and hope they’re more holly than humbug.
The Ghost of Christmas Future is plenty imposing, but Literally Alive’s family-friendly musical won’t give the kids nightmares. PHOTO BY KELLY MARSH
NEW YORK CLASSICAL THEATRE’S “A (15-MIN!) CHRISTMAS CAROL”
The George C. Scott 1984 TV movie version is so long and torturous, it was still playing as we went to press. So it comes as a tremendous relief to hear that New York Classical Theatre (whose summertime production of “The Tempest” roamed Battery Park) is bringing back their brief, but loyal, two-person version of the often-overlong holiday favorite.
Brevity and wit are on the menu of “A (15-Min!) Christmas Carol,” in which Scrooge will act rotten, see ghosts and change his ways — all before you can finish your lunchtime sandwich.
Free. At 12:30 & 1:30pm, Dec. 10-12, at One Liberty Plaza (meet by the cafe tables). Also, at 12:30 & 1:30pm, Dec. 18-20, at Brookfield Place (220 Vessey St. — meet by the Winter Garden escalators). For more info, visit brookfieldplaceny.com/15minCC and newyorkclassical.org.
Surrounded by ghosts of the past: Kevin Jones’ solo show takes place in “Manhattan’s Most Haunted House.”
“A CHRISTMAS CAROL” AT THE MERCHANT’S HOUSE MUSEUM
Built a full 11 years before Ebenezer Scrooge first saw the light of day on the printed page, the 1832 red-brick and white-marble row house on East Fourth Street — now known as The Merchant’s House Museum — has period credibility to burn.
Back in 2011, Kevin Jones began to develop his intimate, one-man “Carol” with the goal of performing it in people’s homes during the holiday season. He’ll be doing that, in a very real sense, when he brings the Summoners Ensemble Theatre production to the Greek revival double parlor that has long served as the social center of Merchant’s House.
Home to the prosperous Tredwell family for nearly a century, it survives today as New York City’s only family home preserved intact from the 19th century. Sitting among the Tredwell family’s furnishings and personal possessions, it’s natural to feel as if you’re helping to write a chapter in the house’s living (and dead) history. Since opening as a museum, dozens of visitors have reported seeing, hearing and sensing deceased family members, servants and caretakers.
Jones’ production is acutely aware of the fact that audiences will be experiencing a classic holiday ghost story told in what the New York Times has declared to be “Manhattan’s Most Haunted House.” Additional resonance comes from the production’s unique connection to its author. Jones notes that this solo show “is my adaptation, taken directly from Dickens’ personally edited performance version of his work — although I did dip back into the novella itself to add back a plot point or two that I consider to have particular relevance to today’s audience, such as how timely Dickens’ works still are today given the disparity between the very wealthy and…well, the rest of us.”
Wed., Dec. 11–Sat., Dec. 14 and Tues., Dec. 17–Fri., Dec. 20. Regular performances, 7:30pm. At Merchant’s House Museum (29 E. Fourth St., btw. Lafayette& Bowery). For info, visit summonersensemble.org and merchantshouse.org. Tickets are $37.50, except for the 7pm Dec. 12 performance, benefitting Merchant’s House ($100 for performance and holiday reception, $150 also includes a one-year membership to the Merchant’s House Museum). For reservations (strongly recommended due to limited seating), call 800-838-3066 or visit christmascarolnyc.bpt.me.
Limited time and space — but NY Classical Theatre’s two-person “Christmas Carol” gets the job done. PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW YORK CLASSICAL THEATRE
LITERALLY ALIVE CHILDREN’S THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS “A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE MUSICAL”
Silent and draped in black, that Ghost of Christmas Future has been known to give grown adults nightmares that rival those of old Ebenezer himself. So it’s reassuring to know that Michael Sgouros and Brenda Bell’s “Carol” scored a 2010 “Best Musical” Innovative Theatre Award. This lively musical adaptation is from Literally Alive (the children’s theatre company-in-residence, at Players Theatre).
Although it takes you through all of the familiar narrative paces, there will be no traumatic frights in this production — just a cautionary journey that plays up Scrooge’s clear choice between living forever as a friendless miser and saving his soul by embracing the holiday spirit.
Scrooge goes from grump to goose-buyer, in 15 minutes. PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW YORK CLASSICAL THEATRE
Appropriate for all ages, recommended for five and up. Through December 30. Thurs. & Fri. at 7pm, Sat. at 11am & 2pm and Sun., at 11am (family workshop one hour prior to 11am performances). Additional holiday shows: Dec. 27 at 3pm/5pm, Dec. 29 at 11am & 2pm and Dec. 30 at 2pm. No show Dec. 8. At The Players Theatre (115 MacDougal St., btw. Third & Bleecker Sts.). For tickets ($25-$45), call 866-811-4111 or visit ovationtix.com. Ticket price includes pre-show arts workshop at 11a family matinee on Sat & Sun. For info, visit scroogeinthevillage.com. Also visit literallyalive.com.