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Dickens' Enduring Story of Christmas Lives On: An Exploration of the Many Audio Adaptations of 'A Christmas Carol'

A Christmas Carol , the world-famous novella by Charles Dickens was first published in London by Chapman & Hall in 1843. This book recou...

A Christmas Carol, the world-famous novella by Charles Dickens was first published in London by Chapman & Hall in 1843. This book recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and then subsequently by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. The visits from the spirits and the things they show him have a lasting effect on Scrooge and he changes his ways.


Over the years there have been dozens of audio adaptations of this classic holiday story. From single-voice audiobooks to immersive full-cast audio dramatizations and everything in between, the tale has been told and re-told in the audio medium for many years. Check out this Wikipedia article for an extensive listing of audio versions.

In this post, I will focus on six different adaptations. These six productions are similar in many ways yet each writer and cast interpret the story in a different way. Each of these varies in length and span many years from the first one to the last. So let's take a look at these audio dramas in chronological order.

Not original artwork - JD made this for his own library

1939
The Campbell Playhouse

Duration 51:50

Orson Welles - Narrator
Lionel Barrymore - Ebenezer Scrooge
Everett Sloane - Marley's Ghost
Frank Readick - Bob Cratchit

JD's Thoughts:
All recorded live!
No English accents
Relies heavily on the performances of the actors - very minimal SFX
Ghost of Christmas Future does not speak
A wonderful piece of broadcast radio and audio drama history

Links:
Download the Program for Free
Read a Transcript of the Broadcast


1983
Disney (Mickey's Christmas Carol)

Duration 33:34

Alan Young (Scrooge McDuck) - Ebenezer Scrooge
Wayne Allwine (Mickey Mouse) - Bob Cratchit
Hal Smith (Goofy) - Jacob Marley's Ghost
Dick Billingsley - Tiny Tim

JD's Thoughts:
This version is a musical featuring familiar Disney characters and is obviously intended for children
Audio taken from the animated featurette of same year
This production was adapted from the 1974 Disneyland Records audio musical
Features four well-known Adventures in Odyssey actors
Ghost of Christmas Future does speak in this one

Links:
Purchase MP3 format on Amazon
The 1974 Disneyland Records version
Read-a-long Storybook and CD set on Amazon


1996
Focus on the Family Radio Theatre

Duration 1:37:38

Timothy Bateson - Our Storyteller
Tenniel Evans - Ebenezer Scrooge
Peter Goodwright - Bob Cratchit
Richard Syms - Jacob Marley
Matthew White - Tiny Tim

Writer/Director Paul McCusker: “I used the Noel Langley script as the basis for our audio drama - though I still had to make a few adjustments to make it work. The reason is that I believe Langley's script is one of the best - if not THE best - adaptation of Dicken's story for the screen. His changes were so true to Dickens that people often have a hard time knowing what was his and what came from the original book... I could have used some aspects of the script without permission, since it all came from a public domain book, but I was determined to give credit where credit was due.”

JD's Thoughts:
Fred’s wife is named Alice
My favorite Marley of them all
A female for the Ghost of Christmas Past
Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come speaks
Has a housekeeper/laundress (Mrs. Dilber) come in on Christmas morning
Scrooge goes to nephew's house at the end
Just splendid in every way - It is very moving and emotional

Links:
Purchase CD copy on Amazon
Purchase MP3 download on Amazon


2004
The Colonial Radio Theatre

Duration 1:07:22

J.T. Turner - Ebenezer Scrooge
Jerry Robbins - Marley, and Narrator
Frederick Rice - Bob Cratchit
Amy Strack - Tiny Tim

Writer/director Jerry Robbins: “In 2004, we were producing product like mad. Powder River Season 1 and Yankee Clipper had been recorded, as well as a few features. Around Thanksgiving time, I decided I wanted to do A CHRISTMAS CAROL as an official CRT release. I wrote the script in about three days. We recorded about a week later, in a single session that only took a couple of hours. Jeff Gage got started on the music, and as I recall, the entire production was done around the second week of December. I don't think we ever turned a show out faster.”

JD's Thoughts:
Stays very, very true to the source material - some dialogue straight from the book
The smaller scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Present were amazing!
The final lines of the Ghost of Christmas Present were delivered absolutely perfectly! Just fantastic!
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come never speaks
The scene when Bob Cratchit breaks down about Tim's death - Acting there was so good!
No scene at nephew's or Cratchit’s at the end
Gage's score is the perfect blending of the feeling of an old-time radio show and a modern audio drama. Slightly melodramatic in certain places for emphasis and heartwarming and swelling in others.

Links:
Purchase an MP3 CD version or Audible edition on Amazon


2014
Voices in the Wind Audio Theatre

Duration 1:02:55

Michael Dick - Ebenezer Scrooge
Bob Telfer - Narrator
Bill Tye - Marley’s Ghost
Keith Burnett - Bob Cratchit
Celeste Dupuis - Tiny Tim

JD's Thoughts:
The beginning scene is a bit abbreviated as there is no interaction between Scrooge and Cratchit before Fred, the nephew, appears
Fred’s wife is called Kate in this version
SFX for Jacob Marley entrance are really really good!
Great use of In The Bleak Midwinter at the scene of the boy Scrooge alone
Female as the Ghost of Christmas Present
Loved the scene of the party at Fred’s house with Christmas Present
The best Tiny Tim of all!
This one has a scene where Scrooge goes to Fred’s afterward

Links:
Official page for the project has credits and a sample to stream
Purchase Audible edition on Amazon


2018
Studio Severn

Duration 1:22:17

Gareth Severn - Narrator
Glenn Hascall - Ebenezer Scrooge
Rocky Westbrook - Bob Cratchit
Ghost of Marley – Peter Lutz
Steven Walker - Tiny Tim

Producer/Director Gareth Severn: “I am a big fan of the story and took some scenes from the book that I felt the Orson Welles version lacked and wrote them in myself. There were a few more I wanted to add but didn't want to make it too long. All the music was found by me by trawling the internet and asking nicely."

JD's Thoughts:
This one is based on the 1939 Orson Welles script with additional scenes added
The introduction and musical interlude were very nice - Really liked it!
This Scrooge portrayal by Glenn Hascall is much more subdued than the rest
Pete Lutz’s Marley is quite good - one of the best of the lot
Zoe Jenkins as Belle and Fran was very good
They leave in the “station ID” break
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come does not speak
Producer did a remarkable job of selecting the right pieces of music and making everything fit together in a cohesive way

Links:
Stream this Production for Free

Final Thoughts

So which one is the ultimate audio adaptation? Well, I really couldn't say. I enjoyed each of them for different reasons. I think you will have to make that decision yourself. Each of the actors brings something a little different to the character of Scrooge and I think it's fascinating to hear how they all interpret this complex character.

If you'd like to hear an in-depth conversation in which I (JD), Roy, and Andrew compare and contrast all 6 of these productions and discuss our favorite points about each, click here to join ATC Backstage and check out that exclusive episode.

Merry Christmas!!!

-JD

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