A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens as adapted by Nick Schneider, with music by Tim Schirmer and lyrics by Cheri Coons and Seamus Reilly, was presented as part of the Parkland College Theatre season in 2007, 2008, and 2009. It has not been produced elsewhere. It was also adapted for radio and has been broadcast on WILL-AM-FM in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The play received critical acclaim by local reviewers and the authors are at present engaged in publishing the work.
The notion of presenting Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as an annual theatrical production in Champaign-Urbana was born a few years ago when I realized that this ageless story, in such form, was not a Christmastime tradition here as is, for example, The Nutcracker. Aside from presenting Christmas pageants with my sister, Suzanne, in the living room of our Detroit, Michigan, home where we hung sheets on the French doors to separate our stage from the audience sitting in the dining room, my first acting experience was as Peter Cratchit in an elementary school production. Years later I would act the role of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, in an adaptation written by Mercy College of Detroit professor, Albert Zolton. Over the years, my family would attend one version or the other of the story in most of the places we lived or visited, as many cities had annual productions.
And so it began. I eventually approached Parkland Theatre Artistic Director Randi Collins-Hard with the idea, and following some provocative discussions, we agreed it could be a viable Parkland Theatre project. After reading several versions of A Christmas Carol, I decided to write the adaptation primarily to provide a unique interpretation for the Parkland stage. Another important consideration was my desire to infuse the telling of the story with music, original music—not in the manner of a book musical with a pit orchestra and all, but as a thematic thread woven by the tellers of the story. Fortunately, for me, Parkland College’s Director of Music, Tim Schirmer, agreed to collaborate and write an original score. Tim had previously composed music for another Dickens’ Christmas story, The Cricket on the Hearth, and his music for our version of Carol, along with lyrics written by Parkland College’s Fine and Applied Arts Department Chair, Seamus Reilly, and former lyrics partner, Sheri Coons, lifts this telling of the story in an incomparable way.
Adapting the story turned out to be at once both easy and difficult. As a classicist, I wanted to keep intact as much of Dickens’ original text as possible. At the same time, our English language has changed, especially the meaning of certain words and phrases from those of the early 19th century. And then there’s my interpretation of the story; a story that I think is prescient, with amazing relevance to today’s society just as it was more than 150 years ago; unfortunately the ghosts are still with us: both personal and societal. So what you’ll experience from the performance you’ll see here on the Parkland stage will likely vary depending on how deep your emotions or intellect are imbedded in the Christmas tradition and this time in history.
“Putting it together,” like Georges Seurat in Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, has not been difficult at all considering the talented professionals that signed on to the project for a pittance of their usual compensation. The production staff and acting company have worked diligently to make this First Annual Production one that you and your family will remember and return to year after year. A Christmas Carol is, after all, a story of family relationships and needs. Finally, I will tell you that researching and adapting this story of Christmastime in London in the 19th century, fathering its production here in the 21st century, and imagining future productions has changed my view of life; I hope the result changes yours. Merry Christmas!
—Nick Schneider, Writer-Producer
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