The Hippo


May 26, 2020








A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story

Where: Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St., Concord 
When: Friday, Nov. 24, and Saturday, Nov. 25, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 26, 2 p.m. 
Cost: $20 for adults, $15 for youth
More info:

A creepier Christmas Carol
The classic tale inspires a ghostly musical

By Angie Sykeny

 Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday story gets a spookier spin in the New Hampshire Theatre Factory’s production, A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story, onstage Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 24 through Nov. 26, at the Concord City Auditorium. 

The musical Christmas Carol adaptation written by artistic director Joel Mercier tells the traditional Dickens tale with original music and a more ghostly, Tim Burton-esque feel. Mercier composed the piece a decade ago while in college and debuted it at the Concord City Auditorium with a different theater company in 2010. Since then, he has been looking for another opportunity to get the show onstage. This year, it worked out through a partnership with the Concord Community Concert Association. 
A Christmas Carol follows an old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge, who is given a chance at redemption after being visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. 
Mercier has always loved the story, particularly for its fantasy aspects, but noticed that in many theater adaptations its ghost story qualities had been watered down. 
“Dickens’ original story was scary for the time, but I think we’re desensitized now compared to the audience of that time,” he said. “The idea of my adaptation was to not sugarcoat it and to really played up the scary, ghostly elements and bring the story back to its roots.” 
The adaptation features the same characters, storyline and Victorian setting as the original story, but has a few unique twists, one of which is the depiction of the three ghosts. The Ghost of Christmas Past, who is often portrayed by an ethereal young woman or man, is instead portrayed by a female Father Time-like character; The Ghost of Christmas Present, commonly a bearded Father Christmas type, is Mother Nature; and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, traditionally represented by a Grim Reaper figure, is a black widow spider.  
Mercier also incorporated additional scenes and lines that give Scrooge’s character more depth. 
“When a character is so well-known like Scrooge, he starts to become generic,” he said. “My goal was to not let Scrooge become generic, but to explore why he is the way that he is, what led him to that place and what personal wounds he had to overcome to rejoin humanity, and to redefine all that for a modern day audience.” 
The goal, Mercier said, was to write and produce a Christmas Carol adaptation that is traditional yet fresh and appeals to everyone. 
“We didn’t want the Dickens die-hards who love the story to come and watch this and feel like it was so weird or far-off from the original that they couldn’t enjoy it,” he said. “But we also tried to make it unique. There are just enough bits and pieces with a twist that people who are sick of the story and have seen it a million times will be excited to see something new.” 
The score consists mostly of standard musical theater-style songs, including a big Fezziwig Christmas ball number, a ballad performed by Scrooge’s fiance Belle, and a piece in memoriam of the Christmas-future’s deceased Tiny Tim. Mercier said the most unique song is the opening song which accompanies a nontraditional prologue scene in which Jacob Marley is put on trial after his death and sentenced to carry chains for eternity. 
The 32-person cast features youth and adult actors, four of whom performed in the debut production in 2010, and several others who attended the debut show and were inspired to be a part of this year’s production. 
One of the biggest challenges of producing A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story is the special effects required for the story’s supernatural elements. The musical will make use of smoke and fog machines, special lighting and “props that do cool things,” Mercier said. 
“Every magical moment has to be planned out. No one wants to see a ghost just walk on stage,” he said. “I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that Marley has a really cool and scary entrance.” 
The plan is to make the production an annual Thanksgiving weekend event that will include pre-show entertainment and activities like Christmas carolers, visits with Santa and a food drive. 
“We want to make this a new tradition in Concord and a city-wide kick-off to the holidays every year,” Mercier said. 

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