By Matt Arado
So just how many ways are there to say “Bah, humbug!” and
“God bless us, every one,” anyway?
A lot, it turns out.
Every year at this time, multiple stage adaptations of Charles Dickens' “A
Christmas Carol” pop up all over the city and suburbs. Some of them, like the
annual production at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, treat the material
Others ... well, they take a few liberties.
This year, for instance, Chicago-area residents will be able to see “A
Klingon Christmas Carol,” in which the entire story is told by Klingons in the
Klingon language. (For the uninitiated, Klingons are warrior aliens from the
“Star Trek” universe.)
There's also “Turn of the Scrooge,” an Elgin production from the
Palatine-based Vex Theatre Company, in which the basic arc of the original story
is reversed so that a happy, joyous Scrooge becomes disillusioned with Christmas
when he confronts the rampant consumerism behind the holiday.
The examples go on. So what makes this story about the redemption of a cold,
bitter, Christmas-hating miser so powerful?
“I think the basic story endures because it's uplifting, first of all, and
timeless,” said Laura Pulio Colbert, a theater professor at Harper College in
Palatine. “Ebenezer Scrooge gets a chance to see what his life could be like,
and a chance to change his future. Who wouldn't love that?”
One of the plays Colbert directed at Harper was “Inspecting Carol,” about a
theater company trying to mount an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.” She said
the continued existence of all the parodies and re-imaginings is a sign of just
how deeply rooted the Scrooge story is in our culture.
“Those kinds of reinterpretations wouldn't work if the ‘Christmas Carol'
story didn't resonate with meaning the way it does,” she said.
Christopher Kidder, director of “A Klingon Christmas Carol” at Chicago's
Greenhouse Theater Center, agrees.
“It's well-known,” he said. “It's easier to play with things that are part of
the social fabric of our society.”
The idea of a Klingon “Carol” started in Minnesota as a joke, one of many
suggestions tossed out for a fundraiser. But Kidder and co-author Sasha Walloch
ran with it and had the end result translated by members of an international
Klingon fan club. Commedia Beauregard, a St. Paul theater company, has been
doing the show in the Twin Cities for four years. This year marks its Chicago
The entire show save for some English from a Vulcan narrator is performed in
the Klingon language, with English supertitles. Thus, audiences get “baQa'” in
lieu of “bah humbug.”
Fight scenes were added, as befitting a warrior culture. And in the end,
Scrooge's epiphany has to do with courage and honor, rather than kindness and
“We had to adjust to the warrior code ... because Klingons wouldn't care one
way or another if Scrooge was charitable and caring,” Kidder said.
In the suburbs, Vex Theatre Company is performing a collection of
holiday-themed songs, skits and plays known collectively as “Twist-a-Carol” this
weekend in Elgin. (The show is recommend for teens and older.)
“Twist-a-Carol” will include “Marley's Ghost” by Don Nigro an irreverent look
at the afterlife of Scrooge's former partner along with “Turn of the Scrooge,” a
Vex Theatre original.
In “Turn,” Scrooge is happy and fulfilled at the beginning of the play, then
he's visited by three modern spirits the ghosts of Christmas Insincerity,
Christmas Obligation and Christmas Excess and he becomes bitter and
disillusioned with the whole holiday.
“It's our way of taking a dig at the consumerism that's so much a part of
modern Christmases,” said Cathleen Ann, a Palatine resident and co-founder of
Vex. “But it's not overly serious. It's really funny, and I think people will
have a great time.”
Those who prefer a more faithful interpretation of “A Christmas Carol”
needn't worry. The Goodman Theatre in Chicago is offering its 33rd annual
“Carol” production, which will feature the talents of veteran Chicago actor John
Judd in the Scrooge role for the first time. A number of suburban actors are in
the cast this year as well, including Christine Sherrill of St. Charles as Mrs.
Cratchit; Cameron Conforti of South Elgin as Tiny Tim; and Grant Mitchell of
Elmhurst and Emma Gordon of Clarendon Hills as members of the Cratchit family.
The production is directed by William Brown, who staged it the past four
“A Christmas Carol” is also being produced at the Metropolis Performing Arts
Centre in Arlington Heights this holiday season. Crystal Lake resident Stephen
Connell, who plays Scrooge, leads a cast filled with suburban residents in this
As long as people celebrate the holiday season, there will be all manner of
“A Christmas Carol” adaptations to enjoy, said Harper College's Colbert.
“I don't see this tradition ever going away,” she said. “The story is just
too wrapped up in the season. For some, it's as much a part of it as shopping,
which is saying something.”