Theater Review: CHARLES DICKENS WRITES A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Revolution Stage Company in Palm Springs)

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by Barry Schoenfeld on December 18, 2023

in Theater-Palm Springs (Coachella Valley)


Pretty much everyone knows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the lonely miser in 1800s London who is visited by three ghosts (four if you include Marley) urging him to change his ways, or face the consequences of an even lonelier life. The result is redemption and transformation just in time for Christmas Day. Charles Dickens’ 1847 ghost story, a tale intended to scare Victorian readers into avoiding the ugly life and dire fate of Ebenezer Scrooge, keeps the lights on at theaters across the country, filling their coffers every year and helping underwrite their other productions. It usually is done as a rather jolly affair, along the lines of British panto, where nothing bad ever seems to happen. Sometimes the ghosts are funny rather than scary, and the children of major donors find themselves on stage sprinkled with fake snow. The novella has also been updated for modern audiences, from Jefferson Mays’ amazing one-man dramatic retelling to The Second City’s comedic interpretation Twist Your Dickens, and the Q Brothers’ Rap version to the hip Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show at The Old Globe.

Eliza Faloona, Heather Joy, Jason Mannino, Adam Hieter,
James Owens, Sam Moffat, Rebecca McWilliams

Scott Palmer’s adaptation uses Dickens’s life story (drawn from his diary and remembrances by family and contemporaries) to create an original comic take, Charles Dickens Writes A Christmas Carol, which Palmer wrote and directed when he was Artistic Director of Bag & Baggage Productions in Oregon. Utilizing seven actors, the well-known story is now a “play within a play within a play.”

 Jason Mannino and James Owens

Mounted by the Revolution Stage Company in Palm Springs, it turns out to be rather tricky business to have Charles Dickens writing the story live onstage and reading from his diary with his characters and the voices in his head acting out his possible ideas, almost heckling Dickens off the stage. The characters in the story rebut, refute and wheedle him, acting as muses and feedback. Are you following this? Can we suspend this much disbelief for a work of total speculative fiction in order to believe it for the sake of just enjoying its all-too-familiar narrative? 

The Cast

Directed by Laura Sterns, it doesn’t quite add up this time. Sterns places Dickens and his characters from time to time right in the audience — breaking a big hole in the fourth wall — offstage and on staircases. Period characters in period dress with English accents offering busy, chaotic action on a small stage in a small theater is a tough act. This effort has its moments, but seems to try too hard, and falls flat.

Jason Mannino

Jason Mannino, in his RSC debut, does his best as Scrooge, as does James Owens as Dickens, and costumes by Emma Bibo — particularly the three ghosts — are outstanding. Eliza Faloona, a young actress also making her RSC debut as Belle, has a few terrific scenes, showing great, natural emotion.

Eliza Faloona, Rebecca McWilliams, Sam Moffat

photos courtesy of Revolution Stage Company

Charles Dickens Writes A Christmas Carol
Revolution Stage Company
611 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs
Fri at 7; Sat and Sun at 2
ends on December 23, 2023
for tickets ($45-$65), visit Revolution

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Judy Arnold January 3, 2024 at 7:37 pm

We saw this production at Revolution on the last night it was performed. The place was sold out which certainly speaks for ‘word-of-mouth’ and what others felt. We thought it to be one of the best acted and beautiful shows we’d ever seen here in the Valley, but then again, this particular critic seems to take great delight in being mean-spirited about local theatre productions, doesn’t he? Is that his thing? To be unpleasant? His claim to fame? Why send this person to review shows if he’s obviously so unhappy about the assignment or sees it simply as a way to be a curmudgeon? Fortunately not sure many people read this page, I found it by accident, so guess it doesn’t matter. Life is too short for vitriol.


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