Adapted by Nigel Holloway

Based on the work of the same name by Charles Dickens

Words & Music by Nigel Holloway

Adapted from works by W.S Gilbert and A. Sullivan

Our NODA Review by Frank Wooles

This version of this classic work was adapted directly from Dickens' original as part of a project carried out by the Concept Players and sponsored by the Arts Council of Wales Lottery Unit. The intention was to produce an original work using Dickens' classic together with music arranged and adapted from the works of Sir Arthur Sullivan. The reason for this was to create a work which would be within the artistic scope of amateur societies who were looking for something outside the normal repertoire of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, but able to be put on without the level of royalties required by the more usual holders of the rights to new works. The libretto and vocal score are available, and there are arrangements for both orchestra and synthesiser. In addition, MIDI files are available for both rehearsal and performance purposes to enable societies to put on the work without the heavy costs of a full orchestra. The work is adaptable for both large and small scale resources, as many of the parts can be doubled to added artistic effect. The settings required are minimal; many of the smaller scenes are played out of the darkness, preferably over a good PA system which can add effects to the voices. Naturally, the characters in these scenes can be drawn from other members of the cast, which hopefully gives a good spread of performance interest for the ensemble. In the solo parts, Nigel deliberately kept away from some of the extremes of vocal range required, for example, in some of Sullivan's tenor arias. The reason for this is to ensure that amateur groups are not put off by particularly challenging or difficult musical requirements. However, Nigel has assumed a good standard of choral singing, as the chorus is used rather more than in other versions to support the action and mood of the piece. The original version uses a small brass ensemble on stage for the carol singing, but this music can be played from the orchestra. Christmas Carol was to be our first original work from within the Company.

But why did we choose Christmas Carol?.We chose Christmas Carol as we were concerned that an original work, with a title that no-one knew would adversely affect audience figures to the extent that while the project might be an artistic success, it would prove a demoralising failure because of the lack of tickets sold. As an amateur group, we are very aware of the fundamentally different character of the amateur show, compared with the professional. Without an audience, and preferably an appreciative one, the amateur show can be a dire affair. This, coupled with a very real awareness of the effects of a financial loss, however funded, has had the effect of steering us away from the totally unknown, and towards using a well-known name, in an attempt to encourage audiences to attend.

We also decided that we were more likely to attract audiences with shows that included children in some way, since it appears from experience that the success of shows like Oliver and Annie depend less on the standard of performance than the appeal of the children. Shallow, we know! We felt that as a group we were ignoring the potential Christmas audience. One solution was to consider a pantomime, but we felt that such a vehicle would not have enduring appeal, and that we should shelve the idea for a later date however, we have not yet penned our first panto.

The choice of subject had to complement the group's strengths: we have a reputation for being able to put on Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and to field a cast with strength and depth. To give a simple example, when we put on Pirates of Penzance, two of the members of what would normally be called the chorus have previously played the part of the Major General, and the principal soprano from our production of HMS Pinafore, played an un-named daughter. It is a credit to the members that we do not distinguish between these two categories, and that playing a leading part in one show and sweeping the stage for the next are not incompatible. The group's acting and singing talent are admired by other companies, and it is to these strengths, as well as to this concept of everyone playing a principal part of whatever size, that we decided to play.

Taking these factors into account, we felt that Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol would prove a suitable vehicle for the dramatic elements we have described, and that to turn it into an operetta using Sir Arthur Sullivan's music would satisfy the musical elements. We also considered that if the work could survive the numerous versions from Mickey Mouse to the Muppets and Bill Murray, then the Concept Players could hardly damage it irreparably! It should be noted that we did not at this point intend to create a comic version of the work, but rather have returned to the original version to create an atmospheric and dramatic interpretation.

We toured this production across December and January 1998/1999 visiting Abergavenny, Newport, Cardiff and Penarth.


"Great theatre, it works well and has proved a successful venture. Concept, and in particular Nigel Holloway, are to be congratulated on their enterprise and courage in bringing this attractive adaptation to the stage"