A Moody Christmas: There’s Life Yet in the Old Scrooge

Eighty-what? Bah, humbug! Age does not deter film, stage, and television actor Ron Moody from going on tour in yet another dramatization of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, the Wales Theatre Company production of which I caught at the Aberystwyth Arts Center. In fact, Moody adapted the story as well, in collaboration with director Michael Bogdanov (whose productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Amazing Grace I have reviewed on previous occasions).

What’s more, Moody not only took on the play’s largest role but enlarged it still by taking over as Dickens’s narrator as well.  He resurrected the old miser with wit, humor, and feeling, even though his voice came across rather faintly and his lines were at times mumbled or muddled to an extent that the character’s age and grumpiness could not entire disguise or explain. When Scrooge reminds one of his ghostly guides of being “mortal” and “liable to fall,” Moody’s frame made the line utterly convincing; yet he stepped surprisingly lively after his reformation, cheerfully urging the audience to rise for a standing ovation.

The production was a busy one, meticulously recreating the story’s memorable scenes and characters with numerous set changes performed by stagehands shifting the makeshift props, activities that distracted from the endearing fairytale simplicity of the narrative and very nearly defeated the object of creating a sense of proscenium arch realism. It was all too much for poor Mrs. Fezziwig, who slipped upon entering the scene in which she was introduced to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

All this stagecraft brought to mind the superiority of non-visual storytelling on radio and in public readings. It is in the spoken word, aided at most by music and sound effects, that a ghost story like A Christmas Carol is most likely to thrill and enchant, as it certainly did in many of the productions heard during the 1930s and ‘40s on US radio, including this Campbell Playhouse adaptation broadcast on Christmas Eve, 1939.

There is no use trying to keep the eyes dry; their services are not required for the enjoyment of plays by radio. If tears happen to blur your vision, let them run freely.  They are testimony to the vision and insight of your mind’s eye.

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