The redemption tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, and how he discards his miserly ways after a few spectral visitations has enchanted audiences since Charles Dickens published the novella in 1843. Just a year later, stage versions appeared in London and the story became a holiday favorite.
Pinpointing the first solo theatrical endeavor is difficult. Dickens, who often did dramatized readings of his writings, did perform “A Christmas Carol,” using gestures and character voices to enhance his presentation. Several actors have developed their own one-man adaptations, notably Patrick Stewart (of “Star Trek” fame) starting in 1988 and beyond (including New York productions in 1991, 1992, 1994 and 2001), and Tony winner Jefferson Mays in 2022.
|Guy Masterson in "A Christmas Carol"
Olivier Award winner Guy Masterson joins this elite club with “A Christmas Carol,” currently playing at the SoHo Playhouse. Like those before him, he tackles presenting a disparate catalog of characters including Scrooge, his partner Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim. The lean production relies on his ability to embody these personas, with a sparse set consisting of a chair and a suspended hook holding a raincoat that also serves as a dressing gown, a dancing guest and a ghost’s garment.
Masterson swirls in and out of each character easily, narrowing his eyes and hunching his shoulders as Scrooge and lighting up his cherubic face when becoming the jolly Fezziwig. When he recounts the Cratchit family’s Christmas eve feast of stuffed Goose, roasted potatoes and pudding, it sounds tantalizing enough that you actually want to try goose.
Even stage mishaps fail to disrupt Masterson’s showmanship. During the night of the first preview, when lighting cues were missed and the sync between the booming ghost voice and the human one was off, he simply called, “Everything OK, Georgie,” to the booth before pivoting seamlessly back into character.
Adapted and directed by Nick Hennegan of the Maverick Theatre Company, this simple version of “A Christmas Carol” allows the audience to concentrate on Dicken’s text as Masterson recounts the story through his extraordinary baritone voice and sweeping movements. The black stage, simple lighting and occasional fog never upstage the purity of the tale’s words.
“A Christmas Carol” runs from Dec. 20 to 30, 2023. SoHo Playhouse is located at 15 Vandam St. in New York City. Running time: 80 minutes. For more information see https://www.sohoplayhouse.com