Nearly 175 years after it was first published, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens remains a holiday classic. The story has been retold many times in movie, TV, and stage adaptations.
This year, Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam premiered their own take on the classic - a new musical called "A Connecticut Christmas Carol." As you might have guessed, the adaptation is a distinctly Connecticut twist on the old tale.
Instead of 1840s London, the Goodspeed version is set right in East Haddam in the 1920s. That's not the only thing Connecticut about this show. Connecticut references and locales are peppered throughout the musical, and even some of the the characters in the show will be familiar to Nutmeggers.
Scrooge is played by none other than legendary Connecticut actor William Gillette. Well, actually actor Lenny Volpe portrays William Gillette playing Scrooge. Gillette, known for his famous performances as Sherlock Holmes, died in 1937.
“Gillette announces to the audience that Mr. Goodspeed is closing the opera house, but wants to do one last performance of the show,” said LJ Fecho, who wrote the book to A Connecticut Christmas Carol. “But Mr. Goodspeed wants him to do this part, that he felt that Gillette was destined to play, and that is Ebenezer Scrooge.”
Just like in the original, Gillette's Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by a series of ghosts. In the Goodspeed adaptation, the ghosts are from Connecticut's past.
Connecticut financier JP Morgan is the ghost of Scrooge's old business partner, Jacob Marley. Harriet Beecher Stowe is the Ghost of Christmas Past. P.T. Barnum is the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Mark Twain is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
“That ghost is usually the grim reaper, who doesn't speak,” Fecho said. “But in this production that ghost speaks - and who better than the very wise, cynical and witty Mark Twain.”
Fecho said he incorporated actual quotes from Barnum, Twain, and Stowe into their ghostly dialogue.
“Harriet Beecher Stowe has some lovely quotes that are very tender and get to your heartstrings”, Fecho explained. “P.T. Barnum has some very showmanship, sort of cocky quotes. Mark Twain has his very cynical quotes, and as the Ghost of Christmas future it really works. He’s really digging at Scrooge with some witty and clever words.”
Goodspeed Musical's “A Connecticut Christmas Carol,” with original music and lyrics by Michael O'Flaherty and book by LJ Fecho, runs through December 30 at the Norma Terris Theater in Chester.