When it comes to Blackout Theatre’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, however, my worries prove absolutely wrong. Blackout’s version is marvelous—whimsical yet dramatic with fine acting, haunting live music and some wonderfully creative puppetry. The kids will love it, but more importantly, you will probably love it, too.
The storyline of the Charles Dickens classic is well-worn territory. Ebenezer Scrooge is a cantankerous old man who shuns human connection in favor of wealth. He refuses his nephew’s invitation to Christmas, choosing instead to stay at home alone. When an eight-year employee, Bob Cratchit, asks for his very first Christmas Day off to spend with his wife and litter of children, Scrooge makes him beg and tells him he’ll have to make up for it by going into work at 4 a.m. the next day. He’s a miser, a curmudgeon, a terrible man with an even more terrible disposition.
Blackout’s take starts in a St. Louis train station, as passengers gather waiting for a 6:30 p.m. train to Chicago, where they plan on spending the holiday for various reasons. Lillian (Lauren Poole) has just gotten out of jail and is on her way to see her kids for the first time in five years. Nicholas (Shannon Flynn) is a lonely traveling toy maker. Beverly (Lila Martinez) and John (Abe Jallad) are struggling to make a living and looking for a new opportunity. Margaret (Heather Yeo) is a well-to-do mother spending her first Christmas without her son, who’s grown and moved out West to make a man of himself. Henry (Barney Lopez) and Rose (Katy Bowen) are performers on their way to a week of shows in the city.
Perhaps my favorite part of the show, though, are the puppets—or more specifically, the ways they’re used. One spirit’s face emerges from beneath a blanket laid on top of Scrooge. Another is crafted from foam cylinders, a mop top and some kind of elastic. It stretches and moves with the puppeteer. And then there’s the final spirit, which rises from a pile of torn sheets and strips of fabric. Somehow, it’s terrifying.
All of this, combined with stunning original music (composed by Monica Demarco—whose sister is managing editor at the Alibi, it should be disclosed) and a solid cast of actors, makes for an energetic and enthralling Christmas Carol.