Ever since it was published to instant success in 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has enjoyed a prominent and permanent position as classic holiday entertainment fare, inspiring countless films and adaptations starring everyone from Patrick Stewart to Kermit the Frog.
The tale is about a miserly boss, Ebenezer Scrooge (whose name is now synonymous with greed and stinginess), as he is forced to face the true cost of his behavior in a series of supernatural visits from ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.
The legacy continues this weekend with the production from the musical-loving theater company The Rep of A Christmas Carol: The Musical.
The 1994 musical, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Mike Ockrent and Ahrens, was an annual hit at New York City’s Paramount Theatre in Madison Square Garden, where it ran until 2003. A television adaptation starring Kelsey Grammer aired in 2004.
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Rep co-artistic director Diana Evans Pulliam has had her eye on the show for a while.
“I have wanted to do this show for about 10 years,” Pulliam says. “It’s a wonderful version of the story with a very appealing score.”
It’s one of those shows where you leave the theater with about five different songs stuck in your head.”
Diana Evans Pulliam, The Rep co-artistic director
Pulliam says that Menken, who composed for Disney on multiple occasions in films such as Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, brings his signature magic to the show’s many musical numbers.
“It’s one of those shows where you leave the theater with about five different songs stuck in your head,” says Pulliam, who also choreographed the show’s dance numbers.
“I love A Christmas Carol, but I particularly love this version of it,” says co-artistic director Robyn Peterman Zahn, who directs the show. “I love the music in this one tremendously.”
The show features almost 90 participants, with large-scale dance and choral numbers like the Jacob Marley-centric Link by Link or Scrooge’s retrospective The Lights of Long Ago driving the story.
According to Zahn, marshaling that many people, particularly getting their schedules to jibe, was one of the show’s biggest strategic challenges. But it is the artistic challenge that Zahn relished.
“Diana and I run a really safe place to be creative,” says Zahn, who cites “convincing people to trust themselves enough, to know that the simplest common denominator is what creates the truest and most heartfelt moments” as one of the ways she cultivates local talent.
“I am surprised over and over by the amazing talent we have here,” she says. “My greatest joy is to help make their performances better than they ever thought they could be.
“I believe in giving people a safe place to completely believe in themselves and create what I consider to be magic,” says Zahn, which she says relates directly to the message of A Christmas Carol.
“It’s about family, second chances and getting it right,” says Zahn.
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer and critic.