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Gerald Carpenter: Elite Theatre Gives Scrooge Another Chance to Change

Fridays through Sundays through Dec. 22, the Elite Theatre Company of Oxnard is offering a new musical production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol as adapted by A.D. Hasselbring, directed by L.J. Stevens and produced by Stevens and Kevin Kahm.

As usual, the Elite is somewhat close regarding the names of the cast members, even in the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge, but it does offer the following promotional description: "A touching musical version of the best known Christmas story of all time. Using beloved carols of the period, A Christmas Carol brings the holiday spirit home where mankind is everyone's business and the singing of carols and sharing of food and spirit lift our souls with the hope that charity thrives throughout the year.

"As in all the best adaptations, you will both loathe and love Ebenezer and delight in his reclamation. No matter how many times we share the moment when the Cratchits receive their Christmas turkey and Tim proclaims, 'God bless us, every one,' you will forever embrace and cherish this timeless tale of a heartless Scrooge who is given a second chance to become the kind of human that we all strive to be."

Here in America, we celebrate the English version of Christmas, and the English version of Christmas was more or less invented by Dickens, especially in the short novel — as much as a ghost story as a Christmas story — known as A Christmas Carol.

Though he saw the evils of Victorian England as clearly as Friedrich Engels, Dickens was not a deep social theorist. His program for the improvement of mankind was that we should all take a few moments to review our past actions, particularly the mistakes we made and the wrong turns we took, and be nicer to each other afterward. After all, Scrooge was in full possession of his faculties; he could have conducted his own review, without having to be dragged along on a forced march down memory lane by supernatural apparitions. Yet he did not, and hence he had to be awakened in the middle of the night and summoned into another room, and the spectres took him by the hand and showed him, with immense precision, where he went wrong.

The Elite production team is to be congratulated for using Victorian-era Christmas carols, instead of hiring somebody to write new songs, or worse — much worse — trying to use the dismally unmemorable Leslie Bricusse songs from the 1970 movie Scrooge. This is, blessedly, A Christmas Carol with music, not a "musical" Christmas Carol.

No one could ever match, nor will ever match, Dickens' power to describe a fictional character so vividly that the character becomes more real, more alive, than most of the people one knows.

One example will suffice: "Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas."

This is a man very much in need of redemption — especially since he doesn't think so.

A Christmas Carol plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at the box office at 2731 S. Victoria Ave. in Oxnard, by phone at 805.483.5118 or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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