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Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" Family/Staged-Reading Script, Music and Sound Effects

by Tony Palermo

A Christmas Carol is Tony Palermo's very faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic story for performance by a family or staff in an informal setting, such as a living room or staff meeting room. The dialogue is verbatim Dickens. This adaptation has been performed and recorded by theatre troupes, schools, staffs and families across the world. This richly imaginative work is in the form of a radio drama, one which doesn't require costumes, sets or memorization.

The 30-minute Staged-Reading/Family production version includes the famous scenes of the Scrooge and Nephew Fred, Bob Cratchit, the Charity Seekers, Marley’s Ghost, the Three Spirits, Fezziwig's Ball, Scrooge's broken engagement, the Cratchit family, the graveyard, the prize turkey and Scrooge's final surprise for Bob Cratchit. However, to keep the show short, this version omits several scenes entirely; no teenage Scrooge and his sister Fan, neither of Nephew Fred’s parties, no mention of the Children—Ignorance & Want, no Rag & Bone shop, and no mocking businessmen. However, at 30 minutes, the story still holds up as an emotional experience. This version also employs (optional) music but doesn’t require any sound effects. Instead, the sounds are described by the narrator, the way Charles Dickens handled them in his original novel.

NOTE: I also offer several fuller versions (60-minutes long, 40-minutes and 30-minutes) all in full radio drama style--with underscoring music and sound effects. These versions go for a slightly higher price than the Family Version. For details about the full radio drama versions, see Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" radio drama for theatrical productions

If you wish to produce one of my “Carols,” please indicate which version you are interested in.

TO ORDER: Contact me at and tell me about your intended production. I deliver the script via e-mail as a PDF file, and the pre-recorded music cues and pre-recorded sound effects tracks are available as downloadable MP3 files. The live sound effects (bells, plates, footsteps, etc.) are up to you to assemble, but my script has a "sound effects cookbook" section explaining how to make each sound using items you can find in your town.

ALSO AVAILABLE:


The show makes use of pre-recorded music for scene transitions and as dramatic underscoring, running under the dialogue. The music does not extend the play past 30 minutes. But note, this is not a Broadway-style musical with a singing Scrooge or tap-dancing Tiny Tim. However, it IS possible to employ a choir to serve within scenes as the poor child carolers dispelled by Scrooge and as Marley's moaning phantoms. You can also insert carolers at Nephew Fred's parties, the Cratchit household and elsewhere.

Here's a downloadable MP3 clip of a famous scene, employing voices, music and sound effects:

MP3 - A Christmas Carol - Scrooge & Marley excerpt (2.2 MB)

Here's a downloadable excerpt of the 30-minute Family/Staged-Reading version:

        SCRIPT SAMPLE - Readers' Theater/Family Production version - Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol - TRUNCATED.pdf (234 KB)

You can view/print the excerpt, which is in the PDF format, via the free Adobe Acrobat reader program, which works for PCs and Macs. http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2_allversions.html

Tony's Extensive Notes On How to Produce 'A Christmas Carol'
Valuable information about how I've approached this adaptation and suggestions for how you handle your production.

CAST SIZE:
Here's the cast listing from the 30-minute staged-reading version. Throughout the play, there are never more than 5 characters in a scene, so a small cast can easily perform the entire show. However, you can employ anywhere from 8 to 25 actors.

Maximum: 7 men, 7 women, 10 men-OR-women, and optionally, 2 boys and 2 girls (but those roles can be handled by women--as in the golden age of radio.) With doubling of roles, this show has been done with only 8 actors (4 men, 3 women, 1 boy). See the appendix for suggestions about doubling roles.

Without doubling, the cast list is as follows:

EBENEZER SCROOGE

Miserly old man (male)

THE NARRATOR

Narrator (male or female)

MARLEY’S GHOST

Spirit of Scrooge’s partner (male)

SECOND SPIRIT

Ghost Of Christmas Present- Jovial spirit (male or female)

FIRST SPIRIT

Ghost Of Christmas Past - Old/Young Spirit (male or female)

NEPHEW FRED

Scrooge’s kind nephew (male)

BELLE

Scrooge’s young fiancée (female)

BOB CRATCHIT

Scrooge’s meek clerk (male)

MRS. CRATCHIT

Bob’s kind/feisty wife (female)

POOLE

Charity Seeker (male or female)

LAMB

Charity Seeker (male or female)

TINY TIM CRATCHIT`

Bob’s crippled young son (male or female)

PETER CRATCHIT

Bob’s 12 year-old son (male or female)

MARTHA CRATCHIT

Bob’s 15 year-old daughter (male or female)

BELINDA CRATCHIT

Bob’s 9 year-old daughter (male or female)

BUCK

Street urchin (male or female)

BOY CAROLER

Poor street caroler (male or female)

PRE-RECORDED MUSIC TRACKS:

Additionally, I offer pre-recorded orchestral music tracks—20+ minutes worth. These 19 tracks cover scene transitions and underscore the drama. They are NOT Broadway-style musical songs. Instead, the tracks function the way 1940s movie music does—supporting the drama by playing underneath the narrator and some dialogue. In scoring ‘A Christmas Carol’, other than my own ghost and suspense music, I adapted old Victorian carols. I used less well-known carols, to avoid cliché or sentimentality, without sacrificing the authentic characteristics that period music could lend to the story. The carols reinforce emotional and structural connections in the drama.

For example; Belle's Theme ("The Coventry Carol") is played by a music box--a gift from Scrooge--that winds down as their dialogue details the crumbling relationship.  

The instrumentation is strictly Victorian: brass choir, pipe and reed organs, hand bells, church bells, chimes, cymbals, timpani, fiddle, concertina, music-box, “glass harmonica,” choirs and strings. This authentic musical underscoring adds greatly to the production.

The 20+ minutes of music tracks are available as downloadable MP3 files.

1) Holiday Playhouse theme (under narration)
2) Boy Carolers singing—then cut-off
3) Foggy Night  
4) Marley’s Woe  
5) The Phantoms  
6) Spirit #1 Arrives
7) Christmas Past  
8) Fezziwig’s Ball
9) Belle’s Music Box
10) Return to Bed
11) Spirit #2 arrives
12) Christmas Present/Cratchit Home #1
13) Christmas Montage
14) Spirit #3 Arrives  
15) Cratchit Home #2
16) Graveyard Sequence
17) Church Bell Cacophony   
18) Christmas Day in London  
19) God Bless Us
20) Outro
21) DEMO: "Scrooge & Marley" scene
 

        Christmas Carol music tracks (AND professional sound effects tracks) are also available separately (without purchasing script performance royalties). Contact:

HOW TO PAY FOR SCRIPTS AND MUSIC :

First contact me at and tell me about the type of production you are doing (which version of the show, do you want music or SFX tracks, the size of the theater/venue, number of performances, ticket prices, etc). Then I will e-mail you back a quote of the royalty rates.

I accept credit card payments via the free and secure www.PayPal.com service.

1) Go to the www.PayPal.com website, click on the “Send Money” button, and register for free.

2) Use my e-mail address of: to send the money to my PayPal account.

3) Along with the PayPal transaction information, please specify what you are ordering (which version of the script, if you want music tracks). Include your postal mail address—for my tax reporting purposes. NOTE: If you do not specify WHAT you are ordering, I cannot e-mail you anything.  

4) NOTE: You must pay in U.S. dollars—which is easy to do on Paypal.
For how-to info, see: https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=p/sell/mc/mc_send-outside
 

DELIVERY:

Once your payment has been received, I will e-mail you a PDF file of the full script. You can make as many photo-copies of the script as you need for your cast and crew.

If you opted for the downloadable MP3s for music and sound effects tracks, I will e-mail you links to the special download pages. 


TONY PALERMO is an audio theatre producer, performer, and educator living in Los Angeles, California.
He performs professionally, conducts workshops, and produces programs for hire.
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Last modified: 10/06/14