Imagine if we’d never heard of Charles Dickens.
We wouldn’t be sitting inside Rochester’s packed Geva Theatre Center on a Saturday night, watching the Wilson Stage make ready for a beloved tradition, here in their fair city.
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of redemption for one of London’s most horrid and despised characters, effectively tugs at the heartstrings of young and old alike. But especially so, on the night my friend and I attended this emotionally-charged show.
It seemed as if many grandparents had come with little ones. I remember wondering if they’d be able to sit still through the performance. After all, kids will be kids and it was a bit later in the evening when some might otherwise be in bed.
We didn’t hear a peep though – as soon as scene one began, everyone was totally engrossed. From the intricate details of each set and the scene’s powerful acting to the bedazzling special effects and believable story, we all sat on the edge of our seats.
And, oh, the story! You could tell that parts of it resonated with each in attendance. Whether it was the day-in-and-day-out hardships of heartbreak and despair that spoke to some – or the sweet touches of love and lightness in laughter that called out to others – A Christmas Carol served well, rekindling the spirit and meaning of Christmas in each.
My parents made the most of what they had when it came to Christmas. It was never much, but my sisters and I adored the holiday because of how special mom and dad made it every year. And we made certain to hand down their traditions as well when we had children ourselves.
Christmas brings with it December’s nostalgia. I have a deep thankfulness for Charlie Brown trees and bows tied around gaily wrapped presents – a memory I cherish from our little house on Maple Street.
My eyes started tearing moments into the show. Scrooge was so mean! He had no heart!
And even though the Ghost of Jacob Marley was quite frightening, I wanted him to make Ebenezer pay dearly for all of his misdeeds.
I was drawn into the story of Belle, Scrooge’s long-lost love. She was so tragic, yet strong, quite believable as a young woman who knew she’d never win out over love of money.
Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, was a breath of fresh air. He was filled with holiday cheer, and certainly the only one that openly hoped there might be a change in his uncle’s nastiness every time Christmas made its way into that London neighborhood.
The children’s singing – as they careened across the stage or ran behind the set’s facade – was a moving tribute. Their lilting voices brought attention to the wonder of Christmas and a pure belief that their plight could improve, despite the odds being stacked against them.
We laughed heartily at the antics of Mr. Fezziwig, felt the pain in Tiny Tim’s maladies, and rejoiced with the family when his casts were removed, allowing him to walk and run with other children for the first time.
The change was profound in Ebenezer Scrooge – people hardly recognized him that early Christmas morning. His meeting with the Ghost of Jacob Marley revealed the shallowness of a life with no meaning, a heart cold as stone, and a demise that many would not mourn, nor shed a single tear over.
It was his drastic turn-about that made the audience stand and clap I think. It was moving – to think that people can change – that each one of us has the opportunity to become a better, kinder person than we were yesterday.
Oh, the magic and miracle of Christmas! The entire cast brought the point home and certainly deserved the five-minute standing ovation that followed.
Rochester’s Geva Theater landed a real gem with this live performance. It’s understandably one of the richest shows out there. My heart was filled with peace and joy and hope when I pushed through the doors and walked into the nighttime air.
“ God bless us, every one.” Yes, Tiny Tim, every single one.
What’s your favorite version of A Christmas Carol? Please leave a comment below.