LITTLE CURRENT—For almost 175 years the Charles Dickens’ classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ has been a classic tale of Yuletide redemption, retold in innumerable styles and adapted to fit just about every genre over the years, but the tale has rarely ventured beyond the happy ending to reveal how the central characters of Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit made out in the years that followed.
Thanks to a Sunday, December 3 dramatic reading by the Little Current United Church Players of the Matt McHugh novella ‘Scrooge and Cratchit,’ as adapted by Anne-Marie Law and Joshua C. Law, the mystery of the duo’s fate has been revealed.
“I found the novel by Matt McHugh about 15 years ago when I was the minister in Cochrane and I really loved it,” said Little Current United Church Pastor Paul Allard. “I wondered then if there was something that we could do with it at Christmas.”
Together with the local Anglican Church, Cochrane’s St. Pauls United Church put together an ensemble to put on a dramatic reading. “A playwright in Toronto turned it into a dramatic reading and we did it about two years ago,” said Pastor Allard. “It went over really well.”
Digging out his own copy of the script, Pastor Allard went to his congregation and suggested that it would be a great opportunity for outreach with the parish. “I always wondered myself what happened to Scrooge,” said Pastor Allard. “I loved how he bookended the life of Scrooge and family.”
So a sign up sheet was posted in short order and soon a dozen people had stepped up to the stage, or rather the microphone. A dramatic reading is conducted much like a radio play of old, with the players reciting the lines without the movement and sets of a stage production. Still, the players were dressed in appropriate period costume. “The audience can sit back in their seats and let their minds explore as the story unfolds,” said Pastor Allard.
The casting of the reading was nothing short of inspired. Following a welcome by Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin, the deep voice of Scott Mosher filled the church, painting the opening scene and holding his audience spellbound throughout the production.
Between scenes, members of the Little Current United Church choir led the audience in traditional Christmas songs, including ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ ‘As With Gladness, Men of Old,’ ‘Coventry Carol,’ ‘The Carol of the Bells,’ ‘Verse from the Wassel Song,’ ‘We Three Kings,’ ‘Silent Night,’ ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ and ‘Once in Royal David’s City.’ Pianist Barb Cranston provided the accompaniment and music production for the piece.
The main cast included a nightgown-clad Pastor Allard as Scrooge and a top-hatted Helen Eade as Robert Cratchit. The two main characters delivered their lines with a passion that brought their respective characters alive.
In supporting roles were Elaine Moore as Constable and Gentleman; Carol Hill as Deacon; Marian Henry and Brenda Hallett as messengers; Ivan Edwards as Stranger and Notary; Ken Lippold as Fred and the Ghost of Marley; Diana Parrill as Mrs. Cratchit; Karen Allard as Mrs. Dilber; and Glenda Hodder as Old Lady. The cast put their hearts and souls into each part, no matter how large or small, taking turns to step up to a microphone set to the side of the pulpit wherein the redoubtable Mr. Mosher held forth.
The production team included catering by the Little Current United Church Women, posters and promotion were by Lori and Betty Edwards and the ushers were Gail Cronin and Betty Edwards.
Admission to the production was by free will offering and/or non-perishable goods for Manitoulin Family Resources and the Food Bank. “It went over pretty well,” said Pastor Allard. “We raised a little bit of money, about $206, and a shopping cart full of groceries. I think we may look at doing it again next year.”
Judging by this year’s performance, ‘Scrooge and Cratchit’ may well become a Manitoulin Christmas classic in its own right.