Stage adaptations of Charles Dickens’ short novel “A Christmas Carol” are typically the most-performed shows in the U.S. holiday season. They range from a one-man play to the lavish musical that has traveled to the Fabulous Fox Theatre for 28 engagements, dating back to 1982.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Rep announced plans to start a tradition this year with annual productions of a new adaptation.
Such performances form a reliable holiday tradition for many people.
The pandemic makes it impossible to hold them safely this year. Yet, some St. Louis organizations are finding ways to tailor Dickens’ story for these times and bring it to the public in a safe way.
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and Painted Black STL translated the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miser who hates Christmas but is persuaded to change his ways, to a series of storefront art installations. Metro Theater Company produced a socially distanced reading of the book for a web stream.
There’s no grand spectacle onstage at the Fox this year, but the public may attend a behind-the-scenes tour of the theater populated by characters from the story, who dramatize a loose version of it.
In the process, some say they are helping to fill a community need that’s larger than just the hole in a theater’s season schedule.
“So many of the traditions, the shows, the gatherings, the celebrations that make this time of year special aren’t going to be possible this year,” said Tom Ridgely, producing artistic director of St. Louis Shakespeare Festival. “We wanted to have this sense of ritual that, even though you wouldn’t be able to do this the way you normally would — at the Fox or wherever you’d usually see ‘A Christmas Carol’ — that there would be a way to honor the tradition.”
The festival’s collaboration with Painted Black STL yielded 22 storefront art installations in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. They reimagine the story, largely from the perspective of Black artists and other artists of color.