This is a guest post by Kara Dennison.
Question: how many ways can one tell the story of A Christmas Carol? Answer: all of them. It’s one that never gets tired of being rewritten or remade or reimagined because it is, at its heart, the most basic and essential of holiday messages: don’t be a jerk on Christmas.
Okay, it’s more than that. But the fact remains, it is the most solid non-religiously-tied story of the season, and with a park that has its own tiny England, you really can’t do without a staging of it at Christmas.
“Scrooge No More” was Christmas Town’s new show in 2014, put on by the same people behind “Monster Stomp at Ripper Row” — and it shows. Off-the-wall costumes, creative use of all parts of the stage, heavily thought out lighting design, and a highly stylized aesthetic are all present again, although not as gory or edgy as its Howl-O-Scream counterpart. “Scrooge” is infinitely more family-friendly, though it does get its creepy on at plenty of points throughout.
It’s worth noting that “Scrooge” isn’t a jukebox musical of the typical theme park variety. Nor, for the record, was it borrowing at all from the Leslie Bricusse musical. This is all new music, ranging across a variety of styles. The music is cute and engaging overall and moves the story along, but it isn’t truly the central or most fascinating thing about the show.
Visually, as you’d expect from its pedigree, “Scrooge No More” is serious eye candy. Heavy use is made of clever lighting and video projection to move the story along, even in the “real life” scenes. Scrooge’s chamber has a distinctly Lemony Snicket feel to it (as does Scrooge himself) before Marley’s appearance in chains kicks off his night of weird dreams. The various ghosts (all played by ensemble members) are heralded with a variety of projected effects, bringing a surreal, dream-like quality to the whole production. Much of it is reminiscent of the techniques used by the UK theatrical troupe 1927: Marley’s chains are augmented by a “web” of animated ones projected behind him, scenes build themselves up from animated pieces, and the Ghost of Christmas Present appears to us first as a giant CG nutcracker.
(This is to say nothing of the time travel effects between the ghosts’ scenarios, which… well, let’s just say someone loves the Twelfth Doctor as much as I do and has no problems being extremely blatant with it.)
The final segment with the ghosts is downright eerie, veering slightly more toward its “Monster Stomp” roots. Between Crowley-esque imagery and a frighteningly realized, larger-than-life Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, I found myself sinking down in my seat to hide. It’s grim, but not gruesome: a good chilling Christmas ghost story, lightened immediately by Scrooge’s reformation.
Also worth noting are the ensemble players who took part in a light pre-show, specifically the gentleman performing antics with an unruly spotlight and doing a bit of juggling. It was a pleasant, fun atmosphere from the beginning, and the right one to get families jazzed for the show to come.
“Scrooge No More” is sheer spectacle at its core, somehow managing to blend the merry Victorian aesthetic just outside the theatre’s doors with the dark, unsettling undercurrent of “Monster Stomp.” A Christmas Carol is the ultimate vehicle for this pairing, of course, and it’s exciting to watch. While you might not necessarily leave humming any of the music, you will definitely still be talking about the visual spectacle for days after.