In the preface to A Christmas Carol, Charles Dicken hoped his tale would live on, “haunting houses pleasantly”.
More than a century later, Dicken’s wish has come true – in spades. His story about sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge and his surprising transformation is now a seasonal tradition.
“It is one of the quintessential Christmas story. It is the definition of the spirit of Christmas,” says Reg Park, a drama teacher at Maple Ridge Christian School who intends to turn his stunning production of the Dicken’s classic into an annual event.
For the past three months, a group of about 75 dedicated volunteers from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows have been been working feverishly to stage the show, compete with a two storey tall set that encompasses the entire school gym and features falling snow, LED lights and five-part musical harmonies.
The show is based on a new musical adaptation by Keith Ferguson and Bruce Greer of Dickens’ 1843 novel that is faithful to the original’s plot and prose.
“There are a lot of spiritual elements that we really resonate with our school,” says Park, who plays Scrooge in the musical.
The musical takes place on a thrust stage with audience seated on three sides.
Park likes the intimate setting.
“As an actor you are on your toes and it’s exciting and it’s invigorating. you are not as removed from the audience. The fourth wall is gone,” he says.
“It’s a difference between painting a picture and sculpting a sculpture.”
As a performer, there are many juicer roles than Scrooge.
“As an actor, they tell you to look for parts with an arc,” says Park.
“There’s not much of a better arc than evil to good in a span of 45 minutes. It’s a lot of fun. You get to be cranky and then happy. There is a real redemptive quality in it that I like.”
Park’s acting buddy Lawrence Locke is cast as Bob Crachit, Scrooge’s overworked, harassed clerk.
“It’s very out of my personality so it was going to be a more challenging role,” says Locke, who initially auditioned to play Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner.
“To Bob, family means absolutely everything. He loves Christmas just as much as Scrooge hates it.”
Locke has done his best to make Crachit his own, a hard task given the popularity of the play.
“I still think my character is a little bit different,” says Locke.
“He’s much more self-assured, even though he finds himself in difficult circumstances.”
With A Christmas Carol, Dickens hoped to illustrate how self-serving, insensitive people can change.
Warmth, generosity, and overall goodwill, overcome Scrooge’s bitter apathy as he encounters the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and of Christmas Yet To Come
Locke hopes the musical ignites the Christmas spirit in everyone who sees a performance or hears Dicken’s story.
“I know for me, personally, every year it’s a bit of a struggle to find my Christmas spirit. We get so involved with other things that are going on with our lives,” he says.
“This story never fails to put me in the spirit. To remind us again that it’s not about the commercialism, it’s not about what I’m going to get for Christmas. It’s about reaching out and giving hope to others who are around you and those who need it so much more.”
• A Christmas Carol plays at Maple Ridge Christian School, 12140 – 203rd Street . The show runs Thursday, Dec. 20 to Saturday, Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on Saturday at 3 p.m. For tickets, call 604-465-4442.