Sunday, January 11, 2009


The lyrics for the songs in "A Southern Christmas Carol" look to the original Charles Dickens book not only for inspiration but for content, for metaphors, for figures of speech. There's no better example of this than in the show's opening number "That's Old Man Scrooge." The music is upbeat, catchy, with a folksy Country music feel. The lyrics also have a very "American," Country music feeling, but they also follow concept for concept the description of Srooge that Charles Dickens wrote in the opening pages of the book.

Look over Dickens' descripion of Scrooge--printed below--paying special attention to the phrases and words highlighted:

"Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.
"External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him.No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often "came down" handsomely, and Scrooge never did.
Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, "My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?" No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o'clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!"

But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call "nuts" to Scrooge.

Compare the above passage from Dickens' oirginal book to the lyrics below:

“Now Old Man Scrooge was hard as flint.
He carried a chill wherever he went,
Even in the Summer’s scorchin’ sun!
Nothin’ could warm him one degree
No wind that blew was more bitter than he.
When they saw him comin’ dogs turned tail to run!

"Feel that chill comin’ down the street?
That’s Old Man Scrooge!
Cold as snow and hard as sleet:
That’s Old Man Scrooge!
Get out of his way or don’t you know
He’s liable to tell you where to go!
A mean old cuss
Who’ll make a fuss--
That’s Old Man Scrooge!

"Now Scrooge’s face was frozen stiff
With his nose turned up like he’d caught a whiff
Of some awful, rotten, stinkin’ smell!
His cheeks were shriveled!

"His nose looked nipped!
Had a bluish tint to his thin, pursed lips
Because he hadn’t smiled in quite a spell

"Don’t waste your breath on a 'howdy do!'
To Old Man Scrooge!
He’ll keeping walking right past you.
That’s Old Man Scrooge!
When they see him passin’ by
Children hide and babies cry!
Listen to me
Just leave him be!
Old Man Scrooge!

"Squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching!
Beggars never asked him for a dime!
Wheezing, scraping, cursing, cussing!
No one even asked him for the time!

"Hard as flint! Cold as snow!
Carries a chill wherever he goes!
Dogs turn rail! Babies cry!
He Hasn’t got time for you or I!

"Who’s that comin’ down the street?
That’s Old Man Scrooge!
Hurry! Make a fast retreat!
That’s Old Man Scrooge!
Don’t you dare to wish him well
Or he’ll tell to you to Hell--

"There’s no doubt
He’ll chew you out!
That’s Old Man Scrooge!"

Even though"A Southern Christmas Carol" moves Dickens' classic story to the rural American south and changes the time period to the 1930's and the era of the Great Depression, the show is, nevertheless, more faithful to the ideas, themes and content of the original book than are most of the more traditional theatrical adaptations of the story.

Above: Old Man Scrooge (Peter Lewis--far left) freezes passer-bys on the street with his frosty glare in the musical number "That's Old Man Scrooge." (From the 2004 Cotton Hall Production of "A Southern Christmas Carol.")

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