Bah, Humbug!Christmas is rapidly approaching and naturally that means it’s time to wrap yourself up in your favorite buffalo robe, throw another log on the fire and watch a few hundred different versions of “A Christmas Carol” starring that loving curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
Christmas is rapidly approaching and naturally that means it’s time to wrap yourself up in your favorite buffalo robe, throw another log on the fire and watch a few hundred different versions of “A Christmas Carol” starring that loving curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge.
Personally, I like the animated adaptation starring Mr. MaGoo best because he’s such a good actor and so lovable. But that’s about as easy to find these days as peaches in Peoria, apples in Amidon, lariats in Laguna Beach and Mitt Romney, post-election. So I tend to watch the one starring George C. Scott, who really was a curmudgeon, or that other version with the bald guy who once piloted the Starship Enterprise.
Whatever the version, the story never gets old because Scrooge always has the same ghostly lobotomy and eventually wears a drinking man’s smirk. Bob Cratchit finally gets paid what he’s worth without having to slap the old man, which he should have done years earlier, and Tiny Tim wriggles his foot out of the grave, thanks to, we assume Scrooge’s millions.
Christmas without Scrooge would be like a birthday without balloons, windsurfing without water, burgers without fries, Beauty without the Beast and Barrack without Biden.
Still, the person that is many times more interesting than Scrooge is the guy who created him, the one and only Charles (Charley) Dickens from London who wrote the book in just two months in 1843 and watched all 6,000 copies sellout in a couple of days. It was then made into at least eight theatrical productions within just six weeks and has been in continuous print ever since.
Meanwhile, despite his amazing success, Charley was about as strange as a Spam-and-caviar-eating woodchuck because he constantly looked in the mirror, combed his hair 100 times a day and kept his bed perfectly aligned north and south, because he was obsessed with magnetic fields, and thought that the alignment improved his writing.
He constantly moved furniture around, touched everything three times for luck, loved hypnotism and used it to try curing his wife and 10 kids of illness, had a secret door designed like a bookcase filled with fake books, loved ghosts and the paranormal, and inspected his children’s rooms every day for cleanliness like a sergeant does a barracks at boot camp.
At the age of 11, his father was sent off to debtor’s prison and he had to drop out of school and work in a factory sticking labels on shoe polish bottles. He was also epileptic, his wife’s 17-year-old sister died in his arms after a short illness and in 1865, as the north and south were waging civil war in America, Dickens was on a train that derailed over a bridge and was in the only first-class carriage that didn’t plummet into a river.
He somehow found a key that freed his friends from the carriage, went to the carriages below and gave water and brandy to those injured people who needed it, climbed back into his own dangling carriage and retrieved a just completed installment of “Our Mutual Friend” from the pocket of his coat, because he was en route to his publishers.
Afterwards Dickens was never lauded for his heroics because he was traveling with a mistress and wanted to keep the incident under wraps. Exactly five years later, to the day, Dickens died at his home from a massive stroke at the age of 58.
Prior to his death, he had helped to create something called Urania House, which was a place that former prostitutes could go to learn to read and write and clean house. In fact, Dickens searched prisons and workhouses for potential candidates, interviewed them personally, established the house rules and helped approximately 100 women “graduate” from the place.
Despite all of his quirkiness, Charley wrote one heck of a Christmas classic, amongst other things, that has survived the ages and become a viewing tradition. Still, there is a new, more comical and entertaining version that has been rewritten by Dickinson’s own Pat Barnhart.
This adaptation takes place in the Badlands and stars Jeremiah Drooge in the Scrooge roll, Ben Bagley as his ghostly shyster lawyer partner, handyman Bob Sackett as Bob Cratchit, Old Charley Dickens as the narrator and it even features a remarkably entertaining appearance by Theodore Roosevelt.
This play is being directed by Margaret Barnhart and performed by Sneak Pique Productions at the cozy Odd Fellows Lodge from Dec. 13-16, creating what might just become another feel good downtown Dickinson Christmas tradition.
So if you’re a Scrooge fan you don’t want to miss out on this one, especially since proceeds go towards Dickinson State University theater and music scholarships. Because as the Ghost of Christmas Present says, “There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember, time is short, and suddenly you’re not here anymore.”
Tickets are available at the DSU Foundation House.
Holten is a freelance cartoonist and columnist from Dickinson.