Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, Gaslight Baker Theatre, Lockhart, December 4 - 19

Ebenezer Scrooge is everywhere around Austin this Christmastide.

At his fictional debut in London in 1843 the fictional old curmudgeon endured a long, long Christmas Eve but came through transformed and redeemed, much to the reading public early in Victoria's reign. Dickens intended the novella as an uplifting scold and a humanitarian lesson --and a money-maker. He didn't make much from it, particularly once unscrupulous publishers started churning out unauthorized editions. Within a year there were eight theatrical versions of the Christmas Carol in London, only one of them authorized, with another two in New York.

Dickens did establish an enduring set of characters and he was influential in shaping Anglo-Saxon celebration of the holiday. Some assert that the greeting "Merry Christmas" stems from the mouth of Scrooge's nephew Fred and others maintain that our celebratory, family-oriented rituals of the holiday are urbanized versions of 18th-century manorial customs admired by Dickens and emulated in this story.

Scrooge lives again for us this year in Austin and nearby, with -- count 'em -- seven straightforward versions (two conventional theatre pieces, two one-actor presentations, a version for children and a version by children, and a musical) and five spoofs (including Inspecting Carol, now underway both in Wimberley and in San Antonio). Pretty good for a 166-year-old.

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