From the Creators of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid Comes A Christmas Carol, The Musical

In the musical version of Charles Dickens’ classic, this popular story is reimagined with beautiful melodies by Alan Menken and memorable lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, creators of Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Seussical: The Musical.

Director Alan Souza

Several guest artists from past Rep productions will be teaming up to create the fast-paced musical version of A Christmas Carol on The Rep stage in December.

Director Alan Souza will be returning to The Rep, having previously directed The Rep’s popular Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Helen Gregory also returns as Musical Director for the production, and most recently worked at The Rep in Joseph and Evita. Audiences who remember the fabulous costumes of last season’s Hairspray will recognize the hands of Michael Bottari & Ronald Case, both returning as Costume & Mask Designers for the production.

And set design will be created by The Rep’s own Resident Set Designer Mike Nichols, who most recently designed the grand southern plantation house in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the multi-level setting of Hamlet and the London Palladium Theatre featured in The 39 Steps.

Don’t miss A Christmas Carol, The Musical this holiday, created for Rep audiences with the same skill, creativity and energetic spirit you remember from past holiday extravaganzas like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The King and I and Beauty and the Beast. 

A Christmas Carol, The Musical opens December 2 and runs through December 25.

Themes of A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Carol, The Musical

There are several striking themes found in Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol. The theme of a Christmas spirit – making time for family and celebration every year — is one that is prevalent throughout the novel. There are also the issues of social welfare and poverty that were very much a part of the new Industrial Age in which Dickens’ lived.

A Christmas Carol was published on the heels of the British government’s changes to the welfare system known as the New Poor Laws, passed in 1834. Dickens’ intent on writing his novella was to “strike a sledge-hammer blow…on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child.” The novelist had first-hand experience with poverty, watching when he was 12 his father imprisoned for debt. Then the young Dickens was sent to work at a factory for three years.

For the writers of A Christmas Carol, The Musical the theme of redemption is the one that holds the strongest attraction. The transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge from sour miser to generous and happy Christmas celebrant is the focus for the musical adaptation.

Price Clark as “Tiny Tim” and David Benoit as “Ebenezer Scrooge” in Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol, The Musical. Photography by Cindy Momchilov. © Copyright 2011 Arkansas Repertory Theatre. All rights reserved.

Mike Ockrent, book writer and original director for A Christmas Carol, The Musical, wrote a letter during the early years of the production of his show. That letter demonstrates the theme of redemption is one that resonated with the creative team.

’It’s never too late to change.’ That’s the message in our musical version of A Christmas Carol. It’s a wonderful, optimistic Christmas message that Charles Dickens’ story reminds us of every year. And the notion that the human spirit is not immutable, cast in stone, incapable of renewal, is the reason that A Christmas Carol has found such a place in our hearts, generation after generation. This magnificent underlying theme has come to symbolize the secular, yet spiritual, meaning of the Christmas festival. When Lynn Ahrens, Alan Menken and I set out to dramatize and musicalize this classic tale, this was our starting point.

History of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Carol, The Musical

A Christmas Carol, The Musical opens at The Rep on December 2.

One of the many notable points about Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol, is that it was a hit from the moment it was published in 1843. Six thousand copies were sold within months and eight stage adaptations were in production almost immediately.

Interestingly enough, A Christmas Carol was born out of Dickens’ need for cash. His wife Kate was expecting their fifth child and a large mortgage was putting pressure on the popular author. Though his holiday tale was quickly in high demand, Dickens’ didn’t see as much profit as he wished in part due to pirated versions that soon appeared in the market.

One would have to imagine that Dickens would be astonished at the continuing popularity of A Christmas Carol, particularly in the form of various film and stage adaptations. Every year seems to bring a new take on A Christmas Carol, from The Muppets (1992’s The Muppet Christmas Carol) to Bill Murray (1998’s Scrooged) to Vanessa Williams (2000’s A Diva’s Christmas Carol)

A Christmas Carol, The Musical debuted at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden on December 1, 1994. The show received Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Musical. For ten years the show was a staple of New York City’s packed holiday season. Walter Charles was the first in a long line of high profile performers to play Scrooge. Over the 10 years that the show was presented annually, Tim Curry, Tony Randall, Hal Linden, Roddy McDowall, Frank Langella, Tony Roberts and even Roger Daltry all starred as Dickens’ most famous curmudgeon.

The stage version of A Christmas Carol, The Musical was presented for the final time at Madison Square Garden on December 27, 2003. A year later, a film adaptation of the show premiered on NBC, starring Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge.

The Life of Charles Dickens

Here’s a short biography of Charles Dickens, the author of A Christmas Carol. The Rep’s production of A Christmas Carol, The Musical opens on December 2.

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, a town on the southern coast of England. Dickens’s childhood provided much inspiration for his later writings: When Charles was 12, his father was imprisoned for having too much debt, and Charles was sent to work in a
“blacking factory” for three years. For 10 hours a day, Charles would paste labels onto jars of shoe polish. His experiences at the factory were revisited in the horrible treatment undergone by his characters in David Copperfield and Oliver Twist.

Like many writers of his day, Charles Dickens’ writing career began as a journalist, reporting on governmental activity at Parliament. His access to publishers helped him get his stories into print. Today we know of Dickens’s works as long, complete books, but most of his work was originally published serially. Similar to our modern television series, shorter episodes of Dickens’s books would be published monthly in small booklets, sold for just a shilling each. Each new episode would build interest as readers shared their reactions and wondered together what the next installment would bring. His first popular series, The Pickwick Papers, ran in papers from April 1836 to November 1837. The success of this project catapulted Dickens’s career as a novelist.

These and the next few years of Dickens’s life were busy ones: He was married to Catherine Hogarth in 1836, and she gave birth to the first of their 10 children early the next year. He also wrote two of his more famous novels, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby.

Charles Dickens took his first trip to America in 1842. He was not impressed with what he saw; his chronicle of the trip published the following year, American Notes, was critical of many common American practices—he was disgusted by the chewing (and spitting!) of tobacco and horrified by the keeping of slaves. This publication made him unpopular in America for a while.

Dickens’s most famous creation, A Christmas Carol, was published in 1843. At the time, the celebration of Christmas was waning as economic and social conditions worsened, a result of the Industrial Revolution. Rather than write a pamphlet on the injustices he saw around him, Dickens presented his Christmas Carol, a story in which the redemptive power of Christmas overcomes the prevailing economic and social inequities of the time. A Christmas Carol went a long way toward resurrecting the celebration of Christmas in England.

Charles Dickens died on June 9, 1870, leaving his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.