Story By Ayano Hodouchi Dempsey
Charles Dickens’ tale of the redemption of a cold, miserly man who despises Christmas, adapted for the stage by playwright Michael Shepherd, comes to Magnus Theatre this month. Artistic director Thom Currie had set his mind on A Christmas Carol and read some 30 adaptations of Dickens’ iconic work for the stage. He eventually chose Shepherd’s version, not only because he was an Ontario playwright, but also because he himself had performed in it fresh out of university and the experience remained with him. Tracking down Shepherd, now in his mid-80s and retired near Sudbury, was not easy, but Currie did some detective work and managed to get in touch with him.
Shepherd’s A Christmas Carol is faithful to the original, with one major adaptation—it requires only seven actors, and all the characters other than Ebenezer Scrooge are played by six actors, meaning each actor takes on four to six roles. “Michael chose a really interesting way of doubling up the actors,” Currie explains. “The actor who plays Scrooge’s nephew also plays the ghost of Jacob Marley, and the woman who plays Scrooge’s sister in the past also plays the young daughter of Cratchit.” The people Scrooge knew in his life, past and present, weave in and out of Scrooge’s consciousness.
“It’s not really about Christmas; it’s more about a man who lives in a very cruel place, who cannot bring himself to help others, and what he discovers is that life is better when you are helping others, when you are participating in society,” says Currie.
Currie is proud to announce that the cast will be headed by Mario Crudo, who was Magnus Theatre’s artistic director for 24 years before he stepped down in 2017. “Mario was here one day, we were talking, and I just looked at him and said, ‘Would you consider acting again?’ I asked him point blank, ‘Would you want to play Ebenezer Scrooge?’ He got very nervous, said it’s been a long time, but I sent him the script, he read it, and said yes, he would do it.”
A Christmas Carol opens at the Magnus Theatre on December 6, and there will be 20 shows until December 22. There is also a pay-what-you-can performance on December 16 at 2 pm. For dates and times and ticket availability, go to Magnus Theatre’s website, visit their box office, or call 345-5552.