This is my father’s copy of Dickens’ Christmas Stories. It’s seen better days. It was old the first time I laid my hands on it, when I was about nine or ten. Someone—probably me—drew on the first pages. You can see the binding is loose. It wasn’t a well-made book to begin with and many readings have pretty much destroyed it.
It’s one of the most precious things I own.
My father gave me this book when I left for college. I’d read it many times during the years and he knew how much I loved it. The very first story in it is A Christmas Carol. Has there ever been a better first line than this one?
Marley was dead, to begin with.
If ever it was necessary to end a sentence with a preposition, this is the one. From the first line to the last, “God bless us, every one!”, I was hooked. And the description of the Fezziwig party! “…three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.” I always felt as if I were there, dancing and singing and reveling, and I always wished I really was.
When I heard our local theater was going to do a musical production of A Christmas Carol, I knew I had to be involved. This was my chance—or as close as I was likely to ever get—to join in the parties Dickens described. I have no experience at all acting. I can’t sing. I didn’t know, at the time, if I would be able to dance. But my daughter convinced me that we should audition together, so I threw my hat in for a non-singing role.
Now, less than a month away from the first show, I’m glad I did. I’ve learned most of two dances, one of which is in the Fezziwig party. I’m enjoying the company of the rest of the cast, all of whom have more experience than me in this sort of thing. They’re wonderful people, every one of them, and they’ve taught me a lot. Even the ones who are younger than me.
But mostly, I’m loving experiencing first hand a new (to me) way of storytelling. I imagine when Charles Dickens sat down to write A Christmas Carol, he never imagined it being adapted to the stage. He never thought of the way his beautiful story of self-discovery and redemption could be told through song and dance, visualized by a director and translated by actors on a stage.
I’m sure he never thought of it, but I believe he would have liked it.