Monday, January 11, 2010

"Scrooge in South Georgia"

by Ed Corson
From "The Macon Telegraph" [Macon, Georgia] , Dec. 19, 2003)

"'Bah! Humbug!' Since Ebenezer Scrooge first spat out that angry phrase, in the pages of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," published 160 years ago come Sunday, those words have summed up the bitterness of Yule phobics, soured secularists and Christmas curmudgeons.

"The phrase is 'Bah! Horse hockey!' down in Miller County on the flat plains of southwest Georgia.

"I heard Old Man Scrooge say it on stage Wednesday afternoon. There, in "A Southern Christmas Carol," presented in Colquitt's Cotton Hall, Ebenezer Scrooge is a tight-fisted cotton gin owner, the richest and most hated man in a small Southern town in the Depression year 1933. The show is a fresh musical translation of the well-worn story of 19th Century London.

"I've seen other adaptations of the work; this one really works. It's faithful to the original in much of Dickens' dialogue, character drawing and events, but it shows a sensitive ear for southern talk, music and religious sensibility. As Clarence Jordan's "Cotton Patch Gospel" is to the New Testament original, so Rob Lauer's musical is to the original Dickens story and its stagings.

"It is also good fun, a hoot that warms the heart.

"…In this version, Bob Cratchitt and Tiny Tim are replaced by Eppie, a black maid, and her grown polio-lamed son, Tiny. The delegation soliciting for poor relief becomes an evangelical missionary couple seeking funds to minister to Depression victims. In place of the Londoners who discuss Scrooge are farmers. Jesus comes into the picture much more than in Dickens' original. But the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future are there, as are Scrooge's sister, fiance and nephew Fred. So are the three crones who scavenge his personal effects.

"Appalachian and African-American carols precede the show. Among the nine original songs are 'Ain't No Rest For the Wicked,' about Marley's ghost; 'It's All Because of Santa Claus,' 'God Bless Us Everyone,' and 'Satan's Having Company This Christmas'--an hilarious comment by a trio of farmers on Scrooge's supposed death."

Photo credits (from top to bottom): Rubin Singleton & Allison Spraigon in the 2003 Cotton Hall production; Andrew Frace & Peter Lewis in the 2004 Cotton Hall Production; Matt Gibson in the 2005 Cotton Hall Production; Karen Beyer in the 2003 Cotton Hall Produciton; Michael Mahany in the 2005 Cotton Hall Production

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