Dickens at The Tavern
It must be more than 10 years ago when hubby and I (with our dear friends Barbara and Paula) first saw A Christmas Carol at Atlanta’s Shakespeare Tavern. It has since become a festive favourite and an annual holiday tradition for us - Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and a trip to The Tavern.
And so we met up with Barb, Paula, Billy, Jason and Jennifer at the Midtown theatre last weekend, excited to discover what new little twists on this timeless classic the ASC players had in store for us this year.
We arrived early, ordered a drink at the bar (a seasonal, sparkling Poinsettia cocktail for me - thank you Jason), then headed to our table in front of the stage. In authentic Shakespearean playhouse style, The Tavern’s atmosphere is always very relaxed and informal. British pub grub is available for purchase beforehand, and the audience is encouraged to continue casually munching on Cornish pasties and shepherd's pies while drinking pints of ale as the play begins.
As the lights dimmed and voices hushed, we were suddenly transported across the pond and back in time to Dickensian London. The Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s unique adaptation of A Christmas Carol is officially billed as a “storyteller’s version”, remaining true to the original detail and descriptive language of Dickens’ novel.
The cast of ten actors alternate between narrating the story and playing the various characters.
Although there are a few new faces each time we come, discovering that Drew Reeves has reprised his role as Scrooge once again always feels reassuringly familiar - a bit like seeing the same old (grumpy) friend every Christmas time.
Paula was delighted to find her former fourth grade student Mark Schroeder (now all grown-up) playing Bob Cratchit for the third year in a row, and the lovely Becky Cormier Finch (who is also box office manager and so helpful when I’m making our annual booking) is a regular member of the ensemble, performing several different characters. This version of the story includes live music too, with the talented actors also singing and playing violins, acoustic guitars and percussion instruments. Rather appropriately for a play with this name, there really are Christmas carols (Away in a Manager, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Good King Wenceslas, etc.) beautifully performed amidst the narrative. And enough passing references to mince pies, Christmas pudding and Camden Town to make a certain Brit feel quite nostalgic at this time of year.
The Tavern is a small playhouse, intimate, cosy, and not stuffy at all, where actors (and ghosts) naturally interact with the audience throughout the performances. We were amused by an impromptu moment as Scrooge was moving amongst the tables and someone’s beer accidentally spilt over his shoes. The entire cast joined him (and all of us) in fits of laughter and spontaneous applause as he dried himself with a napkin before climbing back on stage, undauntedly still delivering his lines with a smile.
After the show, the cast took time to mingle with everyone in the lobby, and Paula got a chance to chat with Mark about old times and happy memories.
And then the evening was over for another year. Although Paula, Billy, Barbara, hubby and I are all “Christmas Carol veterans”, this was Jennifer and Jason’s first time at The Tavern. They absolutely loved it, and I have a funny feeling this could become an annual tradition for them too.
As we headed outside into the chilly Atlanta night,
Paula and I reminded each other, as we do every year,
“Now it really does feel a lot like Christmas.”
A Christmas Carol at The Shakespeare Tavern runs until December 23