A Christmas Carol by Dickens, adapt by J Kimbell / K Powers

North Shore Music Theatre, Boston, MA, 2006

Overview

In September 2006, Jon Kimbell approached me about co-directing A Christmas Carol with him at North Shore Music Theater this season.

North Shore has been producing Carol for the past 18 seasons, and Jon felt that the production had gotten both a bit stale and a bit adrift from the story, that some musical numbers and ad-libs had been added to the production – by different directors over the years – that had very little to do with the story Charles Dickens wrote. Jon said there was too much frosting on the story; he asked me to help scrape it off.

Link by link, yard by yard

We had an invigorating collaboration, which quickly came to involve music director Brian Cimmet and choreographer Kathy Meyer: I proposed a major overhaul of the production script, which involved stripping away some numbers, replacing others and re-embracing Dickens’ story. We redesigned and rethought the conception of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and much of the storytelling of the ‘Future’ sequence. We pared down the layers of framing around the central story of the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge. I challenged my collaborators to ‘earn’ each production number in the show, to make the singing & dancing an integral part of the production, instead of frosting on a Christmas cookie. Brian Cimmet worked to reorchestrate and to compose new music where the play demanded it.

This work continued right through our technical rehearsals. It has been thrilling for me to perform as both a director and a dramaturg on my first professional musical production. In a very real way, while this production was 18 years old, it was also, this season, brand new.

Reviews

Boston Herald:
“Finding a way into Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol isn’t easy.  Audiences have expectations, especially when a theater company such as North Shore Music Theatre has been delivering eye-popping holiday productions for 18 years. . . . This year, NSMT artistic director Jon Kimbell went back to some basics in the adaptation he wrote with David James and David Zoffoli. The result, directed by Kathleen Powers, leans heavily on Dickens’ lyrical prose and the darker tones of the tale, but balances the storytelling with special effects that will have audiences gasping. . . . North Shore’s production of A Christmas Carol gooses the familiar classic with a few original twists, giving this family favorite a fresh new look.”

The Beverly Citizen:
“This edition of A Christmas Carol needs no charity. It deserves good reviews all on its own.  [Kimbell & Powers] have renovated and restored the real Christmas Carol.  They have pealed off the vinyl siding added over the years.  And they have revealed the bones of a beautiful Victorian, with its turrets, plinth blocks and stained-glass windows intact.”

Community Newspaper Company:
“Somehow the central message of Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Christmas Carol never gets old.  Its uplifting message of spiritual redemption and the joys of Christmas is beautifully conveyed by this year’s intelligent production at North Shore Music Theater. . . . [Powers’] vision concentrates less on showy effects – although there is certainly plenty to please the eye in this production – and more on the timeless truths of these characters and this delightful story.”

The Spectrum:
“Practice makes perfect.  Sometimes going back to an original concept does too.  This year, Kathleen Powers has taken the helm . . .  carefully reduced some of the extras added to A Christmas Carol – A Musical Ghost Story in recent years, but retained some old favorites.  All in all the production emphasizes the humanity of the people in Dickens’s story and gets the audience singing along with the curtain call’s ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas.'”

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Shut up at the beginning.
– Alan Rickman on directing

You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate,
And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst;
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom,
Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate,
For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate,
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation…
--The Taming of the Shrew, Act II, scene i