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.
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.
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:
Here's a downloadable excerpt of the 30-minute Family/Staged-Reading version:
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'
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:
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.
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 :
TONY PALERMO is an audio
theatre producer, performer, and educator living in Los Angeles, California.