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Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" Radio Drama Script, Music and Sound Effects

by Tony Palermo

Every Christmas, many people across the world license my radio "Carol" script and score for productions ranging from broadcast down to elementary schools. Here is detailed information about the play, the various versions, the cast, sound effects, and music. The performance royalty I charge is based upon the venue (school, stage, recording, or broadcast). There are three versions of this show--a full-story 60-minute version, a simpler 40-minute version and a 30-minute version, trimmed for tight time-slot limits. 

The script comes with a 42-page appendix: How to Produce 'Christmas Carol' as a Radio-on-Stage Show detailing everything from thematic approaches to the material, to casting monologues, a sound effects cookbook, pre-recorded track listings, audio gear resources, right down to instructions for “working” a microphone. Additionally, there’s a history of how radio-on-stage shows were produced in the Golden Age of 1940s radio and how you can blend the various styles to fit your troupe's resources and likings.

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 can either be downloaded as MP3 files, or shipped via regular mail in the form of audio CDs. The live sound effects (bells, plates, footsteps, etc.) are up to you to assemble, but my script has a "cookbook" section explaining how to make each sound using items you can find in your town.

ALSO AVAILABLE:


A Christmas Carol is Tony Palermo's very faithful radio drama adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic story of  Christmas, memory, and redemption. The dialogue is verbatim Dickens. This adaptation has been performed and recorded by Hollywood professionals, radio stations, community theatre troupes, colleges, high schools and elementary students across the world. This richly imaginative work is particularly well-suited to the medium of radio, but it also goes over well as a live-on-stage performance--one which doesn't require costumes, sets or memorization. The manual sound effects (mostly doors, bells, chains and thunder and walla walla) always fascinate live audiences.

This script is true to Dickens language and theme. It also boasts authentic orchestral pre-recorded music tracks of Victorian Christmas carols and spooky ghost music. The instrumentation is brass choir, pipe and reed organs, hand bells, church bells, chimes, cymbals, timpani, fiddle, concertina, music-box, wine glasses (glass harmonica), choirs and strings.

Additionally, pre-recorded sound effects are available for the more unusual sounds: wintry winds, Scrooge’s bells and clocks chiming the various hours called for in the script, Marley’s thunder and ghostly bashing, transitional cues of cymbals and chimes and the otherworldly screech of the Ghost of Christmas Future as it “replies” to Scrooge’s many questions.  Please note that sounds generated by the characters, such as doors, Marley dragging his cashboxes, noisy crowds bustling around Scrooge, toasts, plates & forks and two instances of jingling bells under the narration are not part of the pre-recorded collection. They are intended to be done live by the sound effects crew in coordination with the actors as they perform.

Changes of gender for characters is permitted as is trimming lines and even whole scenes. While the show makes use of pre-recorded music for scene transitions and as dramatic underscoring, this is not a Broadway-style musical. However, it is possible to employ a choir to serve within scenes as the poor child carolers dispelled by Scrooge and as Marley's colleagues, the moaning phantoms. You can choose to insert carolers at Nephew Fred's parties, the Cratchit household and elsewhere.

Here's a free, downloadable MP3 clip of a "Christmas Carol" scene, employing voices, music and sound effects:

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

Free "Christmas Carol" Radio Drama Script:
Here's a free, downloadable radio drama "Christmas Carol" script (the 60-minute version), including scene excerpts and a truncated version of the 42-page "How to Produce Radio-On-Stage Shows" appendix:

        SCRIPT SAMPLE - RADIO VERSION - Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol - TRUNCATED.pdf (244 KB)

You can view/print the script, 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:

Tony Palermo directs Theater 40 SFX artists while Michael Gough plays ScroogeHere's the cast listing from the 60 and 40 minute versions. The 30 minute version uses 3 less characters, but also cuts down on everyone's lines. Throughout the play, 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 28 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 40-page 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)

FAN

Scrooge’s young sister (girl)

KATE

Nephew Fred’s wife (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)

GUESTS #1, #2, #3

(3) of Fred party guests (male or females)

OLD JOE

Rag and bottle shop owner (male or female)

CHARWOMAN

Coarse cleaning lady (female)

MRS. DILBER

Lower class laundress (female)

BUCK

Street urchin (male or female)

BUSINESSMAN #1, #2, #3

(3) Greedy businessmen (male)

BOY CAROLER

Poor street caroler (male or female)

MUSIC:
Twenty-two pre-recorded, orchestral music cues serve for scene changes and to dramatically underscore the dialogue at various points. This is NOT a Broadway style musical, with a singing Scrooge or Tiny Tim. The music cues I provide function the way film scores do--to support and color the drama.
The instrumentation is strictly Victorian:  brass choir, pipe and reed organs, hand bells, church bells, chimes, cymbals, timpani, fiddle, concertina, music-box, wine glasses (glass harmonica), choirs and strings. This musical underscore adds greatly to the production.

The 36 minutes of music cues are available on CD or 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) Nephew Fred’s Party
20) “Uncle Scrooge!” Toast
21) God Bless Us
22) Outro – Curtain call

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

 SOUND EFFECTS:
The following list of sounds can be all manual, or a mix of pre-recorded and manual SFX. In this show, a team of sound effects artists work as an ensemble. This show could be handled by anywhere from 2-7 sound effects performers. The whole show with 8 actors who also double on live sound effects, as you can see in the photo here.

Sounds followed by an asterisk (*) are available as pre-recorded tracks--12 minutes worth--which you can download.

WIND*
CASHBOXES
DOOR CREAKS OPEN
FORKS GLASSES CLINK (for a toast)
WIND CHIME
FOOTSTEPS & SNEAKY FOOTSTEPS
HORSE-DRIVEN COACH*
CLOCK CHIMES (strikes 1X, 7X, 9X)*
PUNCH BEING LADLED OUT
OTHERWORLDLY SCREECH OF SPIRIT #3*
FOOTSTEPS IN SNOW
SEVERAL HAND BELLS
THUNDER*
QUIET CYMBAL CRASH*
SPOON SERVINGS & SPOON RAPS ON TABLE
KNOCK ON DOOR
TINKLING BELL
LOCKS*
CRASHES OF MARLEY'S GHOST*
PLATES RATTLING
HORSES
JINGLING BELLS
ONE MAN’S MEEK HAND CLAPS
CHAINS RATTLING*
DANCING

The pre-recorded Christmas Carol sound effect tracks (those with an * after them--such as Wind*, Thunder*, etc.) are also available separately (without purchasing script performance royalties). Contact:


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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: 09/24/13