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Tom Chaney: A Carol for Christmas

Tom First posted this column in the 24 December, 2006 Hart County News-Herald.
The next earlier Tom Chaney: Of Writers and Their Books Faith and Politics.

By: Tom Chaney

A Carol for Christmas

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. Some will regret its passing. Others will breathe a sigh of relief. I generally screw my courage to the sticking point sometime in early December and welcome the new year by staying up for the changing of the year when it is 12:01 somewhere about the Azores.

One of the ever present events of eternal Christmas present seems to be a production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

An adaptation of that short story was performed at Kentucky Repertory Theatre in Horse Cave from the day after Thanksgiving until Friday last. I postponed a trip to a performance frankly because I dreaded seeing yet another Christmas event which had become as dreary to my taste as the twenty-sixth playing of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" over the airways.

My reaction to that old saw has devolved into a fond hope that Ebenezer Scrooge will fail to be converted, that Tiny Tim will be run over by a stray reindeer, and that the nephew will give a party to which no one will come. I have begun to hope that old Ebenezer will swill a dose of Pepto Bismol instead of quaffing an unbelievable draft of the milk of human kindness and sleep dreamless through the night of spirits, sacking Bob Cratchit if he is a minute late for work on December 26.

I was wrong, wrong, wrong!

I saw this fine production yesterday a week ago. I'm sorry I didn't see it earlier, so that I might have helped spread the word about its excellence.

In the first place, the production succeeded for me because of director Robert Brock's sensitive and dark adaptation of the tale. Scrooge lives in a time of dire and ignorant poverty amongst the lower echelons of Victorian London. The sense that hopelessness lies close to the veneer of holiday cheer is evident. This is a somber note seldom caught in other productions to which I have been subjected.

In the second place Fred Willecke played the first believable Scrooge I've ever seen. Other productions have left me thinking that old Ebenezer is merely frightened into his conversion to kindness by the parade of spirits which come his way -- led by the clanking ghost of his dead partner Marley.

Willecke lets us watch Scrooge's awakening motivated by the vision the spirits give him of his childhood and young manhood. The audience sees the elder Ebenezer watching the bashful boy verbally abused by his father. We see that same elder Ebenezer deliberately rejecting the sensitive side of his nature and opting for the security of the counting house instead of love -- losing Belle who wisely rejects the budding miser.

Scrooge's conversion proceeds from within and is all the more genuine for it. He not only learns affection and generosity, he learns frivolity and joy. And the learning is clearly an inner awakening to the Scrooge that might have been. Much time has been lost, but it is not too late to shed the clanking chains which the dead Morley must bear.

Perhaps the most unexpected delight of KRT's production is the music. Brock and music director Mark Funk selected carols and melodies unfamiliar to the 21st Century ear -- drawn from the 1840's when Dickens wrote. With only a few professionally trained voices, Funk creates a golden vocal thread.

The strength of the production lies not just with sound, script, and Scrooge. It lies with a truly professional ensemble -- not a weak link came to light. Such a fine quartet of ghosts! Such a believably joyous party at the home of Scrooge's nephew Fred!

Dickens' A Christmas Carol in the hands of Robert Brock and company provides the lesson of redemption possible in a dark and troubled soul and world.

This production is a fitting finale to the thirtieth season of theatre in Horse Cave.

If you missed it, Christmas 2006 will not be as rich as it could have been.

The dozens of yellow school buses that filled our streets brought many hundreds of young folks to the Warren Hammack auditorium this month. Those students have supped at a great banquet.

We can all be proud of the state of the performing arts in these parts.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73/111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2011-12-18 08:57:08
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