December 17th marked the 170th anniversary of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and I had an opportunity to catch an early preview of A Christmas Carol – The Concert. This remake of the classic Dickens tale is performed as a dramatic concert featuring a full symphony orchestra, choir, rhythm section, a Narrator, and three soloists.
I was a little skeptical of a classic book being performed as a dramatic concert. There have been so many variations of this book that sometimes the message is lost. After watching the concert and thinking about it for a few days I find that I have mixed feelings about what I saw.
What I liked:
- The soloists were fantastic with magnificent, rich voices. They had great voices which were full of emotion and power. The songs were flavors of gospel, jazz and blues. There were beautiful choirs harmonizing along with them.
- The orchestra was beautiful. They were a highlight to this production with a rich sound.
- The narrator was very dramatic. At times she bordered on over dramatic but that is what made her such a delight. The text of A Christmas Carol is wonderful but very different from my usual reads. When I was made to read this book in the past I found myself distracted. Narrator E Faye Butler commanded attention and kept my interest.
What I did not like
- The concert is a bit long. It is broken up into two acts, which helps, but honestly I found myself drifting towards the end of the first act. The second act goes much more quicker than the first but the songs were not as much fun. And yes, I get that at the point in the book/play Scrooge is going through redemption however the tone of the songs just seemed overwrought and way too melodramatic.
- The songs, while a nice variety, all seemed to be big productions. Even the softer numbers seemed loud and grandly over produced. The songs, written by Alisa Hauser, are just wordy and did not do much for me to extend the story as intended. I often found myself tuning out the musical numbers as I waited for the narrator and actors to begin their parts again.
Overall I think this may be a great version for people who may be looking for a fresh take of A Christmas Carol which relies on a traditional storytelling with a Broadway flavor. I don’t know that I would view continually but can see me popping in randomly to catch the story of Scrooge’s redemption and transformation.
If you want to see for yourself: A Christmas Carol: The Concert will be airing on WHYY on Sunday, December 22nd at 1:30pm. Check your local affiliate for the exact date and time in your area.
r’s note: I was sent a copy of the DVD to help with my review. All opinions are my own.