Reviews

Great Marley's Ghost! "A Christmas Carol: The Concert" Enchants and Breaks New Ground.

"A Christmas Carol: The Concert" has the distinction of being the only known adaptation of Dickens' 1843 novella written as a dramatic concert, with singers backed by a full symphony orchestra. But that's not what makes the show so special. Its electrifying performances -- driven by a powerhouse cast, a rock/pop/gospel rhythm section and members of the Elmhurst College Concert Choir and the Chicago Children's Choir -- add up to an instant holiday classic. Rising at times to near operatic levels, the 90-minute show is an engaging, cleverly staged production that the entire family can enjoy.

Unlike so much tiresome holiday fare, "A Christmas Carol" offers a new take on a timeless story, blending the sweep of symphonic performance with dramatic musical theatre and the visual delights of dazzling TV. You get all three in this re-telling of Dickens' story about a miserable miser who finds true religion -- and suffers the fright of his life -- when three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve. Ebenezer Scrooge's transformation into a generous man may seem all too familiar. But it hasn't looked this fresh in a long time."A Christmas Carol" boasts a writing team led by composer Bob Christianson, whose score has echoes of "Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables," with along strands of Sondheim, folk, gospel and blues........His collaborator, Alisa Hauser, crafted an original book and lyrics that are simultaneously faithful to Dicken's beloved narrative but also break new ground......With little or no props and a spare setting, Christianson and Hauser have managed to evoke the grime and darkness of 19th century London, as well as the hope and compassion in Dickens' tale......As the action unfolds, cameras zero in on wide-eyed reactions from young and old alike, bringing real-time emotions into the mix. All of which is to say that if you catch yourself tearing up at any point in the show, you're certainly not alone

Josh Getlin - The Huffington Post

 


Just when you think you’ve had your seasonal fill of Ebenzer Scrooge, Jacob Marley and the Cratchit family — whether dressed up in classic Victorian finery or naughtily thrust into hip-hop mode — along comes yet another interpretation of Charles Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol,” and it makes you sit bolt upright and listen to the familiar story with renewed pleasure.

“A Christmas Carol: The Concert,” produced by Scott Silberstein and his Chicago-based HMS Media (winner of 17 Emmy Awards), is a glorious new musical version of the classic that takes its cue from the hugely successful “Live from Lincoln Center” programs. Like those artful shows, it is a recording of a stellar dramatic concert presented before a live audience and then aired over PBS stations

(Producer Scott)Silberstein and director Matt Hoffman have assembled mostly Chicago-area talent for a powerhouse rendering of a new staged concert version of the Dickens classic that features soaring music and orchestrations by Bob Christianson (co-composer of the hit “Too Hot to Handel”); a vivid, crystal-clear adaptation and lyrics by Alisa Hauser; a splendid orchestra impeccably conducted by Amy Duran, and members of the Elmhurst College Concert Choir and Chicago Children’s Choir under Susan Moninger.

Hedy Weiss - The Chicago Sun-Times

 


It is the famous Dickens story, faithfully told in new music, lyrics and book. ......The lyrics for this enchanting musical were written by 1993 University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music graduate Alisa Hauser......(Bob) Christianson wrote a score that is as fresh and memorable as one by Sondheim or Bernstein. His year-long collaboration with Hauser resulted in a work that is sure to make many Dickens fans smile with appreciation. 

A superb cast of five, an orchestra and a chorus come together in the most imaginative, wonderful and exciting version of the story since CBS presented a version starring George C. Scott in the early '80s. Minimally costumed and masterfully, though understatedly, staged before a theater audience, it's one that shouldn't be missed. It's the standout among this year's standouts."

Mark Your Calendar with Tom Brinkmoeller, Cincinnati


 

“As the PBS presentation of the live concert demonstrates, A Christmas Carol- The Concert is riveting both on stage and on television. Treating the narrative as much as a classic ghost story as it is a tale of redemption, Christianson and Hauser's score is packed with a diverse array of musical colors and styles, from gentle ballads to powerful "Les Miserables" style crescendos, and from blues lamentations to gospel celebrations.”

Broadway World


 

“The most famous story in the world has proven to be a difficult one to adapt to music in the past. I’ve seen a few musical versions of various levels of success, but I’m happy to report that this one trumps those that I’ve seen. The music by Bob Christianson proves to be quite varied, ranging from the type of song you’d expect to hear in a Broadway production, to something straight out of a gospel revival, with several stops in varying genres on the way. But, despite the wide variety of styles, Christianson’s music has a sturdy through-line that makes each of the songs one of a piece. He also is able to make good use of the cast, a full orchestra, and even a backing choir to create a sound that alternates between glorious, haunting, bombastic, and intimate.

The lyrics and book adaptation by Alisa Hauser proves to be an equal match to the music. The lyrics strike a clean balance between clever (when needed) and touching. For the most part, and this is often an issue when dealing with musicals, the lyrics are used to propel the story forward and never feel as if the plotline is on hold to belt out a number. For her libretto, Hauser seems to have used the original novel (who wrote that again?) as inspiration more than many recent adaptations, as she provides more backstory from the original text (and a bit that is exclusive to this production). 

As for the cast, they all perform their respective roles with conviction and gusto. The singing here is certainly never a concern – the voices are all pretty spot on, particularly E. Faye Butler as our narrator, who introduces us to the upcoming story, and serves as our Greek chorus throughout. Michael Lindner as Scrooge obviously has the biggest emotional journey to make, and handles it beautifully. Arya Daire as Belle, Scrooge’s former fiance, has a bit more beefed up of a part than I remember from previous productions, but this one benefits all the more for it. Her scenes with Scrooge are some of the more moving. The only other two soloists each play a familiar role, along with various smaller parts – Scott Coulter as Bob Cratchit and Kyle Scatliffe as Jacob Marley and the other ghosts are quite good in probably the toughest roles in the show.

Jason’s Grade: A

Jason Howard - “Influx” Lead Writer


 

“If you get the chance to see A CHRISTMAS CAROL – THE CONCERT...watch it. Not only can you watch this during the holidays – BUT...I personally think you can gather the family together...make some popcorn...buy some candy and watch it on a weekend. I give A CHRISTMAS CAROL – THE CONCERT... 5 out of 5 popcorn’s.

Mike “The Movie Guy”- IWATCHMIKE.com


 

”A Christmas Carol: The Concert’ Is Melodious And Entertaining

“There have been numerous iterations of the classic tale, both on screen and on stage but what’s different with this production, is that it incorporates not only the story and the characters but the music and the musicians performing. Usually at a concert, it’s the orchestra on stage and when you go to a musical, the orchestra is in the pit below the stage. What works so wonderfully here, is that the orchestra, singers, narrator and characters all appear onstage, at the same time. This may have been done before but it’s the first time I’ve seen it........Bob Christianson composed and arranged the music for this production and also infused into what would typically consist of concert themes only, elements of pop, jazz and blues. For the most part, I find musicals that try to blend different aesthetic styles together, a mixed bag as they sound more like a mash- up than anything else. Clearly, Mr. Christianson has a great love of music and being a composer, arranger, keyboard player, and conductor, he certainly knows his way around an instrument or two. Another interesting facet is that while we are watching A CHRISTMAS CAROL unfold in front of us, Mr. Christianson doesn’t for one second, let the music stop, as it constantly plays in the background. In watching a musical onscreen or on stage, in between numbers, we typically have moments of dialogue and character exposition yet here, he keeps the music flowing, something I noticed and thoroughly enjoyed. The orchestration was magnificent and captivating and is what a concert should be about and getting to see the musicians in their element, interacting with the story, was a joy to behold but we also have the added enjoyment of a classic tale brought to life in front of our very eyes. Highly recommended.

James McDonald - REDCARPETCRASH


 

“It's a moving, powerful story as told and sung by great performers. See the passion of the actor's emotions as they sing, play and speak the tale, A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The actors are dressed in old world attire from the time period of the Dickens tale. As the church bells chime you will feel like you are walking the streets of the village.

The Ghost of Christmas past speaks and sings to Scrooge wearing their night clothes and you'll feel like you are in his cold house all alone just like he was. See the musical instruments being played right along side the soloist in the concert. The soloists are dressed appropriately to coordinate with the pages of the tale. Dressed in suites and ties or nightgowns the tale is told with props like his work desk, or crotches for Tiny Tim.

Don't miss this Sunday night's show on WHYY. Feel the magic of the season and the tale of long ago that keeps it's joyful meaning in Christmas present. Make a hot cup of tea or two and enjoy the concert with your family. We enjoyed watching and listening to the tale just as if we were live in person.”

KITCHENTABLE4.COM


 

I was sent a copy of the DVD to preview and my 5-year-old and I loved it. .....When we first turned on the DVD, I never expected it to grab the attention of my kindergartner, but he was mesmerized by the singers, narrator and the orchestra. We watched the whole performance together and really enjoyed it. If you have WHYY, I encourage you to check out A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE CONCERT this Sunday at 1:30pm. It is absolutely beautiful and you get to experience this classic ghost story as you’ve never heard it before!

LOCALFUNFORKIDS.COM


 

“Imagine my delight when I discovered there was a musical version of my fave holiday tale!.......I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed! A Christmas Carol – The Concert was everything I’d hoped it would be. It was the same tale that I loved, married by that magical je ne sais quoi that only public television can provide. A Christmas Carol certainly should be sung! The full throated narrator (E. Faye Butler) jolts you out of your seat as she introduces the tale. You are hooked as the performance draws you in. I didn’t move until Belle (Arya Daire) and Scrooge’s (Michael Aaron Linder) break up scene. Who knew a break up could be so emotional? I moved to grab tissues; I knew I would need more. And I did need more tissues. Even though we all know the story of poor little Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit’s (one of many roles played by the talented Scott Coulter) beautiful ode to his son left me weeping and cursing old miserly Scrooge. Even though we all know how A Christmas Carol ends, isn’t it grand to see the old miser’s face wake up and realize he’s gotten a chance at redemption? Yes it is. It is quite grand.

And so is this musical performance. Start to finish the concert kept me entertained and will part of my holiday tradition in the future.”

UNCONVENTIONALLIBRARIAN.COM


 

“Pull out the holiday cookies, pour yourself a glass of eggnog or hot chocolate, and check your local PBS station to be sure of what time A Christmas Carol: The Concert - and don't miss it!”

CONFESSIONS OF A PSYCHOTIC HOUSEWIFE.COM  


 

“With so much holiday programming on your TV, here’s a unique alternative: A musical adaptation of Charles Dickens 1843 story of Ebenezer Scrooge”

Seattle Times - TV PICKS - Doug Knoop


 

I was provided with a copy of this DVD of A Christmas Carol- The Concert for review. The kids and I watched it as one of our Christmas movies for our Advent activities. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I have to tell you, I was pretty much blown away. Now I've seen so many different versions of A Christmas Carol in my day. A ton actually. And this by far is in my top 3 favorite versions. I love that it was play and I love that there was a huge orchestra playing right there on the stage. It was just lovely.

And the kids sat and watched it all, which was amazing. I love too that Lucy has been asking questions about it, "why was Scrooge so mean?" "why does Scrooge hate Christmas?" It struck up good conversation between us.....The man that played the spirits, he was great. And really, the guy that played Scrooge was incredible too! I really enjoyed this play, can I say that again for the millionth time? My favorite part of this review is that I get to keep the DVD so we can watch it again next year! 

SOWDERING ABOUT IN SEATTLE


 

“Your family will love it. The music ranges from sentimental to jolly and covered musical styles that everyone in my family loved, with all our varying tastes. I relished listening to the full orchestra and my kids enjoyed watching it as a family. If you are looking for a Christmas special for your family to enjoy this weekend make sure to tune in! 

MOMMYENTOURAGE.COM