No self-respecting Christmas Carol site would be caught online without including a tribute to the one contemporary man who embodies it most: Patrick Stewart.

Stewart's primary connection to Dickens' story is his famous one-man performance, which he has done annually to packed houses since 1989. Fortunately for the rest of us who can't get to the live event, he has recorded it for audio release on CD. Probably as a result of his show, he was cast as Scrooge for the 1999 made-for-TV production by Turner Network Television. Since the two are a different medium, we'll look at them one at a time.

Patrick's Stewart's One-Man Production of "A Christmas Carol"

Short of hearing Dickens himself during one of his public readings, one could never hear a better expression of it than that delivered by Patrick Stewart during his one-man performance. Surely the definitive delivery of all time, Stewart inhabits the prose and the characters with such a lively spirit that, once heard, it will forever influence the way you read the story.

Click here to listen to a short clip from the opening of the story.

Rather than try to review the recording, which I listen to on every road trip I take during the holidays, I'll defer to the professional theater reviewers, who are much more capable of expressing the masterful job that Stewart does with it.

The following review originated from this site: Charles Spencer reviews A Christmas Carol at the Albery Theatre

It's turning into the Dickens of a Christmas. Yesterday I welcomed the RSC's gripping and deeply moving adaptation of Great Expectations in Stratford. Now Patrick Stewart has beamed himself into London's West End with his mesmerising solo version of A Christmas Carol.

Stewart won an Olivier award when he last performed it here back in 1993, and one readily understands why.

The show offers a chance to see a great actor at the very top of his game, completely in command of his material (he adapted the piece himself) and spinning potent theatrical magic out of thin air. He clearly loves Dickens, and he beautifully conveys that love. More importantly, he takes a story that is often regarded as twee and sentimental and finds its darkness as well as its radiant light. A Christmas Carol may be a short book: Stewart leaves no doubt that it is also a great one.

He comes bustling on to the stage with the energy of a man who can't wait to get started, dressed in a modern suit and a shirt, and starts arranging the few props - a lectern, a stool, a table - which together with a few lighting effects are all he needs to bring the story to thrilling life.

You notice at once that there aren't many actors left like Stewart these days, actors who can speak with such exemplary power and clarity. When he declares: "Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner", every word, every syllable, is made to count. He relishes all the glorious energy, flavour and humour of Dickens's prose, and Scrooge suddenly seems to stand before us in all his grotesque glory.

He has the perfect face, too. When he smiles, Stewart can look genuinely benign. But when he scowls, that shaved head, ascetic face, those hooded eyes and cruel mouth can seem unforgettably sinister. The famous "Bah, humbug!" becomes a growling rumble of festering malignity. But he also captures the character's terror, and the final glorious melting of his frozen heart, with equal, high-definition precision.

In the course of the show, Stewart plays some 40 characters, ranging from the falsetto innocence of Tiny Tim to the disgusting squalor of Old Joe, the greasy rag-and-bone man in his filthy lair. Has the ghost of Marley ever seemed more pitifully sad, the joy of the Cratchits' Christmas celebrations more touchingly merry? I beg leave to doubt it.

Stewart also proves a virtuoso when it comes to pace and mood. There are rapt passages here when the whole audience seems to be holding its breath as Stewart lays bare the darkness of Scrooge's soul and the terrible urgency of turning it to the light. But then he will suddenly relax into humour and vitality, picking up the narrative thread, barreling through the action and imitating the chimes of the bells ("Ga-doing, Ga-doing") with almost childlike enthusiasm.

There's a particularly extraordinary passage at the end, when Scrooge finds himself safely back at home after gazing in horror at his own tombstone. Suddenly the most ghastly choking noises start emanating from Stewart, and for a moment I feared the actor might be suffering a seizure. In fact, it is just the sound of Scrooge learning how to laugh again, and he laughs until he cries.

Stewart is giving only 29 performances of A Christmas Carol, and I can't recommend it too highly. Amid so much that is cheap and tawdry at this time of year, this is a show that unerringly finds the heart of Dickens's Christmas message about the joys and responsibilities of our common humanity.

-Charles Spencer

Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2007

Here is another review:
Sharon Perlmutter of Talkin' Broadway reviews Stewart's performance

Read the New York Times review.

Here is a link to the Amazon.com page where you can order it.


The 1999 TNT Made-For-TV production of "A Christmas Carol" starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge

I have to admit, the first time I viewed this film I was somewhat disappointed, having come to it with "great expectations" that it would not only live up to, but surpass, his live performance. With Stewart only portraying the role of Scrooge, and not delivering Dicken's prose, it seemed a lesser effort at first. It also seemed a colder, bleaker version from the start. However, getting over my preconceived notions of what I thought it should be, and watching it for what it is, my appreciation has increased considerably.

In the Sim 1951 and the Finney 1971 versions, the film is brightened considerably at the beginning by focusing on the holiday cheer of the Crachit family, in counterpoint to Scrooge's coldness. But in Stewart's version, he is the main character and we stay with him, through the frozen exile of his self-imposed solitude, all the way up to his repentance. And although it's a harder journey, it is rewarding.

When Scrooge joins a church congregation on Christmas morning, feeling out of place as they begin singing a carol, he joins in... gingerly at first, but as the joy of the song takes hold, his voice rises until he is belting out "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman" with all his being. He is discovering, for the first time, what the words truly mean. The lyrics "to save us all from Satan's power, when we had gone astray," echo true for him now, and we share in his happiness at having begun the journey down the right path.



Here is an article you will enjoy:
The Flick Philospher's review of movie and comparison to Sim's

Here is another review by Elizabeth Burton.

New for 2011!

Click on the images below to view the full-size scans of an article on Patrick Stewart's stage production of "A Christmas Carol" from the pages of Starlog magazine, published in December of 1992. Each image will open in a new window; once you are finished, close the browser window and you will return here.

 


MENU:
Introduction
Marley's Ghost
The First of the Three Spirits
The Second of the Three Spirits
The Last of the Spirits
The End of It
A Christmas Dinner
A Christmas Present
1939 Radio Broadcast
Other Radio Broadcasts

Related Links:

Extra items and pages that are part of this site:

Christmas Essays by Dickens

"Now, the tree is decorated with bright merriment, and song, and dance, and cheerfulness. And they are welcome. Innocent and welcome be they ever held, beneath the branches of the Christmas Tree, which cast no gloomy shadow!"
-Charles Dickens

So writes Charles Dickens concerning a tradition that even in his day was precious. Enjoy his story, "The Christmas Tree," as he recollects the joy it brought to his youth!

"Who can be insensible to the outpourings of good feeling, and the honest interchange of affectionate attachment, which abound at this season of the year? A Christmas family-party! We know nothing in nature more delightful! There seems a magic in the very name of Christmas."
-Charles Dickens

The family seated around the Christmas dinner table is a treasured time that becomes forever etched in our hearts. Enjoy Dicken's story, "A Christmas Dinner," as he relates the joys it brings.

"Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!"
-Charles Dickens

In his short story, "What Christmas Is As We Grow Older," Dickens encourages us to not forget the past joys and loves we have known, in order to shut out the pain of loss. Rather, we defeat the loss by celebrating the memories of times and people once close to us.


"My dear children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him." -Charles Dickens

Dickens never forgot the Source of the holiday cheer he spread with his writings, or the meaning of the silent night in Bethlehem so long ago. In this excerpt from his private story written for his children, "The Life of Our Lord," Dickens explains simply in his own words "The Christmas Story."

Radio and Film Versions


Information about the
1951 version with Alastair Sim, with photos, comparisons to the novel and excerpts from the soundtrack.


Information about the
1939 radio version produced by Orson Welles and starring Lionel Barrymore.


Information about the
BBC radio version starring Michael Gough.Also the 1975 CBS Radio Mystery Theater version starring E.G. Marshall!


Information about
Disney's "A Christmas Carol" short animated feature


Information about "Scrooge," the
1970 musical version starring Albert Finney


Information about the
Muppet's Christmas Carol


Information about the
upcoming 2009 CG version starring Jim Carrey.


Information about Rich Little's one-man version of
"A Christmas Carol."

New!

Information about the
1971 Chuck Jones animated film featuring Alastair Sim as the voice of Scrooge!

New!

Information about Patrick Stewart's one-man performance of the book, as well as his 1999 movie adaptation.

Artwork


Complete scan of "A Christmas Carol"
comic book adaptation from the 70's by Marvel Comics!


Enjoy scenes from the story in these
antique illustrations!


Classics Illustrated "A Christmas Carol"
cover #1.


Classics Illustrated "A Christmas Carol"
cover #2.


Pendulum's Illustrated Stories "A Christmas Carol"
cover.


A Dean Morrissey
painting of Scrooge outside his London business. The print can be bought here.


Montage of
scenes from the novel by artist Jeffrey Bedrick made for a puzzle, which can be bought here.

Other resources outside of this site:

Read the story behind of the writing of this most-loved Christmas story here, as originally published in Reader's Digest.

Christmas According to Dickens: A series of articles by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts.

Dickens and Christmas: an excellent site!

View an incredible table-top reproduction of Dicken's London on this page.

In an essay on his favorite Christmas videos, columnist C. W. Oberleitner examines the best adaptations of "A Christmas Carol" on film.

Alastair Sim's film as viewed through the eyes of a horror movie fan: A Very Scary Christmas!


Whether begging for a trifle or singing a carol on the steps, you had better make yourself scarce when this Scrooge crosses your path!

Introduction /Marley's Ghost / The First of the Three Spirits / The Second of the Three Spirits
The Last of the Spirits / The End of It / A Christmas Dinner /A Christmas Present /1939 Radio Broadcast