Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens
One of my favorite holiday stories, either book or movie, is A Christmas Carol. I love the tale of the miserly curmudgeon, Ebeneezer Scrooge, and his unwanted search for redemption. The characters are fantastic, well written and believable and you really feel as if you know them. I read Dickens ultimate Christmas story every year and my Mom and I collect movie versions of the story as well. Bean has watched them pretty much since she was born. One Christmas, after watching the Patrick Stewart version for the millionth time, she ran around saying "I'm the ghost of Christmas NEVER, mwah ha ha ha!" The story of Scrooge has become a favorite Christmas tradition for our family and I look forward to it every year.

Patrick Stewart as Ebeneezer Scrooge
My favorite classic version is the one with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. Stewart spent several years doing dramatic one-man retellings of the story in New York and Los Angeles. The one-man show is available as a cd and is fantastic. He really gets into the story and does multiple voices and sound effects. I wish I could have seen it live, but I'll settle for listening to it several times a year. The movie is also fantastic, and probably the closest version to Dickens. Another good version is the George C. Scott film, although it takes some liberties with the original. A very old version starring Alister Sim is also available on DVD.

Musical versions are also fantastic. My favorite is Scrooge with Albert Finney. Finney makes a very grumpy Scrooge, but he's a lot of fun to watch. The music is also fantastic and memorable. I especially love the song "Thank You Very Much" and how it changes once Scrooge has learned his lesson. Another great one is A Christmas Carol: The Musical with Kelsey Grammer. This version has a fantastic cast, including: Jane Krakowski, Jason Alexander, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. With music by Alan Menken of Beauty and the Beast fame, this Broadway-style show really shines with Christmas spirit. 

When it comes to children's versions, my favorite is still The Muppet Christmas Carol. I love the Muppets and Michael Caine as Scrooge is fantastic. The Muppet version has my favorite "Ghost of Christmas Present", a large, absent-minded spirit with fascinating hair. The new Disney version starring Jim Carrey in multiple animated roles is also very good. While they have added a bit of adventure to some otherwise simple scenes in the book, it is still a very good retelling of the story. For smaller children, I love Mickey's Christmas Carol. A short, simple story that introduced the miserly Scrooge McDuck, this is a great way to introduce children to the classic tale. Another cartoon version with voices by Simon Callow, Kate Winslet, Nicholas Cage, and Michael Gambon, takes a lot of liberties with the story, but has a poignant song sung by Kate Winslet. A cartoon version featuring Tim Curry, Michael York, Ed Asner, and Whoopie Goldberg as the "Ghost of Christmas Present".
This version is full of catchy, silly songs, and my favorite is the utterly ridiculous  "Santa's Sooty Suit" as sung by Scrooge's nephew Fred. A surprisingly fun children's version is Barbie in a Christmas Carol. With a few Barbie twists, the main character, Eden Starling, is shown how her selfishness hurts those around her. While obvious liberties have been taken with the story, the core lesson of overcoming selfishness and redeeming ones life are still present. For the truly silly, there's even a Scooby-Doo version that is good for a laugh and fun for Scooby lovers. Called "The Nutcracker Scoob", the gang, minus Velma, helps the children of a small orphanage to stop the "Ghost of Christmas Present".

In all, there are a lot of different versions of A Christmas Carol, and many of them are well worth watching. I personally watch at least 6 different ones every Christmas, and I'm always looking for new versions. This year, I plan to read the book to Bean for the very first time. It will take a few weeks as we only read a few pages each night, but it will be well worth it and I can't wait to share Dickens classic story with her as it was originally written.

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