Drew: Let’s be clear, I love Christmas. The gatherings of family and friends, the food, the traditions. And then I met Gillian, and I realized that by comparison, I have a passing interest in Christmas. She is about Christmas. Honestly, it was a little difficult to keep up.
I tried though. I struggled through all the baked goods and bits & bites she made (not really, they were all delicious and I’m an eater). I hummed along tonelessly as she and her sister belted out carols with their trained voices. I waited patiently as her family watched as each member took their turn neatly unfolding the wrapping on each gift, one at a time, to savour the moment. And we shared our favourite Christmas movies. She broke out White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life. I treated her to A Christmas Story.
What I could never get her to watch was A Christmas Carol. I love Dickens’ holiday-themed take on his usual portrayal of economic disparity. Gillian has always refused to watch it. You see, she scares kind of easily, and experienced a childhood traumatic experience at the hands of a ghastly Goofy as the fettered phantom, Marley. She has refused to watch it ever since.
However, Gillian loves musical theatre almost as much as she loves Christmas, so thank you, Neptune Theatre, for finally returning A Christmas Carol to my holiday traditions. Here’s Gillian’s review:
Last week I received an email from Neptune Theatre. “Our holiday show A Christmas Carol, The Musical is opening next week… I’m not sure if you often review something of this nature, but everything from the sets to the costumes is made in Nova Scotia.”
I am a big fan of theatre, especially musical theatre, and, having grown up in Halifax, a big fan of Neptune. I was one of those kids who bought into every $10 Neptune Theatre ticket opportunity through my high school – not for an afternoon off – to spend two hours in suspended reality.
Through university, then community college, then those early poor working days, I stopped going to the theatre. It didn’t quite fit in the budget and time seemed too filled to stop and enjoy an afternoon of live entertainment.
Last year, that all changed. My grandmother came to live with my parents (who live just up the street from us, we’re tight-knit) following the death of my grandfather. My nan is 90. She is the smartest and most well-read person that I know. She goes through about a book a day, seems to know most every historical fact and event, avoids the TV (except for when we hold Downton Abbey marathons with my sister) and LOVES the theatre.
So last October, we planned our first full family outing to Neptune. It was the best kind of afternoon together – entertainment we all could enjoy despite spanning three generations, and we’ve made it a point to see many shows together since – Elf, Legally Blonde, and Bingo at Neptune, and a summer trip to PEI to see Evangeline and Anne and Gilbert.
So the invitation from Neptune was timely. No more than a few hours later, my mom called me, “What is your schedule like over the holidays, I thought we would all go see A Christmas Carol.”
I happily accepted the tickets from Neptune for Drew and me (my inner theatre patron and conflicting meager blogger salary thank you!), my family bought their tickets, and we made it a full-family affair.
I have never liked A Christmas Carol. It is one of the biggest differences between Drew and I when it comes to holiday classics. I have always found the tale dark and dreary (plus, GHOSTS, eep), while this is one of Drew’s favourites.
This particular version of A Christmas Carol was a musical. The show opened to a 19th century London streetscape, with a chorus of children dressed in full Victorian splendor, caroling with full skirts and muffed hands behind a thin screen, giving the illusion for a moment that you were watching a film, not a live play. And just like those first films shot in colour, when the black and white would burst into a technicolour screen, the veil lifted and the stage came alive with carolers young and old in full celebration of the Christmas season.
This version of A Christmas Carol seemed much lighter than any I have seen before. The music, choreography, and character choices brought more levity to the classic tale, something I liked and Drew was less sure of. Walking home from the theatre after the show, he said, “There is something about the creeping despair of Dickens, with hope and optimism shining throughout and triumphing in the end.”
And while the play may not have offered the same gloom and glum you might get from the black and white classic film, the costumes, and set design had my whole family buzzing after the show. We all especially liked the character and costuming of The Ghost of Christmas Past, who felt far more otherworldly than any film version I have ever seen.
And as someone who typically hates the Dickensian classic, Neptune’s telling has piqued my interest in revisiting the tale. I finally saw greater depth in this story than what’s in Dr. Suess’s The Grinch.
But what I really took out of it was how lovely the holidays use to be. When the season was about a rare day off, a time with family and friends, and the simple pleasures of a shared meal, a warm home, drinks, and stories and creating shared memories rather than a tree stuffed full of gifts. A time when we weren’t trampling our fellow human beings for a holiday sale. But I suppose that things always seem better in reflection. And things are always, always brighter on a theatre stage.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” – A Christmas Carol
Looking for great local gifts this Christmas? Get inspired with our 2013 Local Wishlist: www.madeinns.com/localwishlist