A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens, is an already well known holiday story that makes its way around as a Christmas classic. Many are familiar with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, teaching viewers about the values of being a good person through some funny characters, and of course, holiday cheer. Yet when A Christmas Carol turns into improv and Scrooge is the head of a meditation school, the story we know so well becomes much funnier, and maybe even better than before.
The special thing about A(n improvised) Christmas Carol is that the audience are the ones who create the story. A half hour before the show, one of the actors came out to ask a series of questions that would impact how the rest of the night went. The audience got to choose things like the quirks of each character, such as playing with other people’s hair when stressed. He asked who was returning to see the show again. I watched from my seat as loud cheers and applause erupted from the crowd. More than half of the room, which was full, raised their hands with excitement and chatter. There was also us newcomers, silent at first, who also raised our hands, still excited for what was next. I loved that the audience had people of all ages. This made it a friendlier experience, which I appreciated since this was my first improv show. A favorite suggestion of mine from the audience was making Tiny Tim sick from laser eye disease. Later on this was incorporated into the show when we saw Tiny Tim walk out with huge goggles on his face to protect his eyes from lasering others. Some other suggestions that made it into the show that night included Scrooge living under the stairs, the Ghost of Christmas Past being a teletubbie, Scrooge having a stash of hidden gold bars, and Scrooge licking Cratchit’s toes. The ability each actor has to add their own special touch to a character is remarkable, incorporating the tiny quirks mentioned by the audience and adding their own ideas as well, such as how Scrooge liked to slam doors or the Ghost of Christmas Past liked to repeat “Your mom is dead!” and “Scrooge is sad!” over and over again. Even my own suggestion, taping pictures of people’s faces to a door to evoke joy, was incorporated multiple times into the show. I loved that feeling of accomplishment when your suggestion made people laugh.
A(n improvised) Christmas Carol. Photo courtesy of Unexpected Productions.
As the curtains came up, the infamous Scrooge made his way on stage. However,it really lit up as Cratchit (Michael Bils) furiously tried to meditate as Scrooge (Jill Fariss), growled about Christmas, frequently barking in rage “Bahumdidileydop,” a curse word suggestion made by an audience member. This was all accompanied by the audience howling with belly-aching laughter. We were pulled back into the story once more when Scrooge scoured the audience for people to pick on, even chidingly remarking to those in the back: “Maybe if you had got here on time you wouldn't be sitting on stools!” It was the energy of the actors that set the stage for a great show, and that energy is something Unexpected Productions clearly strives to achieve.
A(n improvised) Christmas Carol is a great introduction for first time improv viewers or those coming back for more laughs. The holidays are about cheer, joy, and bringing people together, and this show does exactly that. I loved it so much, and I hope to go with my friends for many years to come. It is a show you can see over and over again, and with a different story each time—it’s the perfect holiday tradition.