Revisiting A Christmas Carol on Broadway made me realize a detail I missed regarding its generational stagecraft:
These generations of stagecraft are introduced chronologically, following the same rough order in which they were introduced as tools of theatrical expression in the history of theater as an artistic medium.
AND, given the centrality of Christianity to Charles Dickens’ tale — I mean, it’s right there in the title — it’s fitting that this sequential stagecraft also reflects how the Bible begins in Genesis; the textual order of God’s step-by-step process in creating the world mirrors the order in which the production introduces each of its stagecraft methods to create its own fictional world.
Previously, I likened the conditions of the opening moments — we hear only Jefferson Mays’ voice in the dark, delivering the first lines of the novel — to the original conditions of A Christmas Carol’s creation: just Dickens’ voice in the darkness of his own imagination, illuminating his as-of-yet uncreated world into a fully-formed reality to share with one and all.
Mays speaks this world into existence, which just so happens to mirror how the Bible starts:
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Mays’ disembodied voice represents this Spirit of God, hovering but unseen. Until:
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
And just like that, Mays lights the solitary candle in his hands, harkening back to the infancy of theatrical expression: oration around a campfire.
He then uses this candle to light the hanging wicks on both side walls of the stage, channeling how theater moved from the campfire to simplistically lit houses, courtesy of rudimentary standing lights. Next up, Mays lights the footlights (think: vaudeville), a symbol of theater’s next generation of stagecraft ushered in by the advent of electricity, and the intricate dance of shadows it allowed.
From this illumination, we start to make out the set features … which brings us back to Genesis, and how God goes on to populate the light and darkness with identifying objects, segmenting the solid structures of our Earthly realm.
At this point, A Christmas Carol’s set is more of a mere backdrop; flat, not exceedingly dimensional, the minimally-furnished bones of a typical drawing room (a reliable locale for all the plays). The production continues its progression into modernity by slowly layering in mechanized, automated stagecraft; thanks to the wonders of technology, the set shape-shifts into locations far beyond the confines of the aforementioned drawing room.
This computerization also expands the sound design with recorded noises; gee willikers, what a novel gizmo!
And then, we get the novelist 21st century stagecraft gizmo of all: projections!
A Christmas Carol guides us from the ghosts of stagecraft past straight through to the ghosts of stagecraft present, with a hat-tip to the Bible along the way for Good measure.