When renowned masked puppet workshop Big Nazo produces visionary ghosts, no thin airy shoals are these. Charles Dickens prefaced his classic 1843 novella, “I have endeavoured in this ghostly little book, to raise the ghost of an idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly…” As Ebenezer Scrooge is visited in turn by four ghosts – his deceased partner Jacob Marley, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come – the audience is treated to each of their appearances in enormous form, Avenue Q mashed-up with Transformers.
The show is not intended for children to any greater degree than was the original novella, but it is not particularly scary despite its employment of Victorian funerary motifs and should be enjoyable for ages of about 7 and older. The Big Nazo ghosts, ghoulish as they are in some cases, seem relatively friendly in a way that is rather surprising from characters about 10 feet tall.
The script wisely follows Dickens’ original text and makes liberal use of its more memorable and quotable lines, but adds quite a lot of cleverness, replete with references to current events and puns – including a few real groaners. Linking modern Detroit with Victorian London is a stretch, but it’s not entirely off-base, either. There are occasional breaks of the fourth wall, as when the ghosts repeatedly bemoan their inability to fly due to insurance regulations in the theater. Scrooge’s old boss and Bob Crachit’s sickly child are both female in this adaptation, becoming “Mrs Fezziwig” and “Tiny Kim,” respectively. Scrooge himself wears Grinch pyjamas.
A sizable children’s chorus sings and dances, adding to the charm that comes with a community theater casting mostly non-professional actors in this simple and well-known story. Several familiar musical numbers are performed solo, some in groups, and there are even a couple of audience sing-a-longs. Admittedly, the fake English accents occasionally result in lines being delivered that sound like “My hovercraft is full of eels,” but anyone who could not themselves recite a quarter of the text must have grown up in a cave, never having heard it from interpreters as varied as Sir Patrick Stewart and Mr Magoo. The cast did not take themselves excessively seriously, and they were having good fun with the production that was contagious to the audience.
A Christmas Carol has been adapted frequently, first for the stage within a year of its original publication using a script authorized by Dickens. Since then, it has been on the live stage, in film, radio, television, opera, and even comedic parody in hundreds of different versions. The basic framework of the plot is recognizable in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The story having long ago become of part of the public domain, every theater troupe tries to put their unique spin on it. There is a temptation either toward excessive sentimentality or, alternatively, caustic cynicism; probably the most notable example of the latter is the British television special Blackadder’s Christmas Carol in which the main character is transformed from a generous philanthropist into a mean-spirited miser. It is increasingly difficult to find any kind of original take on the story, but 10-foot tall puppet ghosts certainly accomplishes that.
Courthouse Center for the Arts, 3481 Kingstown Rd (RI-138), W Kingston, RI 02892,
401-782-1018, e-mail email@example.com,
Thu, Fri, Sat (Dec 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21) 8:00pm; Sat, Sun (Dec 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22) 2:00pm. About 90 minutes in two acts including a brief intermission.
Ticket sales: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/511317
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1395504824017563/
Big Nazo: http://www.bignazo.com/
Charles Dickens’ original story: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Carol_%28Dickens%29