Alliance Theatre presents ‘exciting new adaptation’ of A Christmas Carol

The Alliance Theatre production of A Christmas Carol is as much an Atlanta holiday season tradition as the parade along Peachtree Street and the giant holiday tree at Lenox Square.

Absent for three years from its home on the Alliance’s main stage—now called the Coca-Cola Stage—A Christmas Carol returns to its traditional venue after being moved to another theater for two seasons because of a renovation, then canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. In what the theater calls “an exciting new adaptation, including a completely reimagined set design and stunning new costumes,” the production combines familiar and new elements to present a fun and innovative rendition of the more than 175-year-old saga.

The challenge of presenting a story likely to be extremely familiar to audience members is making it fresh and compelling without losing the elements that endeared it to those who have seen numerous versions over the years. Alliance Theatre rises to that challenge in amazing ways in this year’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, a play it has staged every year for decades.

A Christmas Carol is said to be the second most widely known Christmas story—ranked behind only the story of the birth of Jesus. Since Charles Dickens’ story was first introduced in the 1840s, it has remained an international favorite during the holiday season. Theatergoers likely arrive already well acquainted with the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas Eve journey to redemption aided by four ghosts who visit during the night. Many could probably recite some of its most familiar lines.

This new adaptation works because it enriches the original without changing its essence. There is a deep exploration of how Scrooge became the uncaring man whose very name is now a synonym for mean-spirited callousness. In the original story, young Ebenezer has a difficult childhood. His mother died giving birth to him, leaving his father a cold and resentful man who places his only son is a boarding school rarely visiting him or allowing his come home. The current Alliance Theatre adaptation adds another dimension. The father becomes less harsh when his business is doing well. Ebenezer’s takeaway is that one must succeed in business at any cost.

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The female roles are fleshed out more than is usual in traditional versions. The audience learns more about the relationship between young Ebenezer and his older sister Fan, who is his link with joy and kindness. His devastation at her death inclines him to withdraw from the world afraid to love for fear of loss.

The set design is both inventive and beautiful. Through a cleverly constructed rotating center stage, the audience is believably taken from Scrooge’s home to his office, to Fezziwig’s place of business, to other places. Also new is the use of puppetry as Scrooge goes through his dream-like conversion experience.

The goal in the creation of not only the set design but the introduction of new characters and vignettes, according to a playbill article, was to capture images of mid-19th century London as vividly described by Dickens in the book. The article quotes David H. Bell, who wrote the stage play based on Dickens’ writing: “So if we kind of shift our lens slightly and elaborate on some of those vignettes in the original story, suddenly the entire story can be illuminated in a very different way.”

Those who have enjoyed earlier Alliance productions of A Christmas Carol are likely to find this rendition, which features live performances of traditional Christmas music, delightful and just the thing to put one in the spirit of the season.

Performances of A Christmas Carol are Tuesday through Sunday with matinee as well as evening performances on Saturdays and Sundays, through Dec. 24. Alliance Theatre is located in the Woodruff Arts Center at 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. For ticket and schedule information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org or call (404) 733-4600.

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