PLATTSBURGH — Experience “A Christmas Carol” the way Charles Dickens presented it with holiday performances at the Plattsburgh Memorial Chapel.
This new rendering of the classic tale, conceived by Tim Palkovic and the Mosaic Ensemble under the direction of Sue Carroll, will be presented at 3 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 15.
“I was asked by Bill Laundry, who was the dean of students,” said Palkovic, a SUNY Plattsburgh Theater Department professor emeritus. “He thought it would be a good idea. This year, it kind of came together. He was a very successful dean of students. He could get people to do what they should do. It’s been quite a trip, like climbing a mountain without the proper gear.”
Palkovic knew he wanted to work with Carroll, with whom he had collaborated before on folk tales.
“She was working with the Mosaic Ensemble, an informal group of women who like to sing contemporary songs. My wife, Laura, came on board. She’s sung with Mosaic and liked the idea of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.’ We put it together.”
The Memorial Chapel’s ivy-laced brick exterior and oak-beams-and-plastered stonework interior offer the perfect ambiance for Dickens’ Victorian-era novella about the bitter and penny-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge, whose heartless soul is saved by supernatural interventions of Jacob Marley’s spirit and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come.
The production features Palkovic as the Ghost of Charles Dickens and Mosaic Ensemble sopranos Kim Gingrich, Karen Larkin and Lorraine Locklin; altos Betty Bogucki, Gloria Douglas and Laura Palkovic; and Carroll, a second soprano.
Mr. Palkovic sought to replicate the intimacy as he remembered from the 1938 radio drama featuring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.
“I studied a great deal about Dickens and learned to respect him more than I did,” he said. “He died 10 years younger than I am now. He wrote a shelf of books over four feet long. He would tour the United States and British Isles. He would give readings of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ It was very popular.”
Dickens read to audiences as large as 1,500 people.
“I’m guided by what I know about Dickens. My reading is over the top. He would be exhausted. You read these different characters and read them full tilt with a large voice and really living the characters. It’s exhaustive to do the switches. You feel like you’ve been drawn through a knothole.”
Palkovic tried to locate a suitable adaptation but found none.
“We wanted to blend traditional Christmas carols with the traditional story. Sue has a little Yamaha that does sound effects. She can record music and have it play back. I started working with two goals: to keep as much dialogue as I can and as much description so people would know what the characters look like and the settings. Then, Sue and I worked to find the music that would go with it. That was fun. I always like working with Sue. She’s so imaginative.”
Carroll developed transitory themes with musical segues.
“For Bob Cratchit, there’s a little traveling music,” Palkovic said. “For the rag pickers’ den, there is music for that. There is music every time a ghost speaks. Carols go underneath some of them.”
The cast popped some tags at local thrift shops to get Victorian-esque apparel.
“It was a crazy era,” Palkovic said. “We wanted the women to dress as over the top, pretty and fancy with fake jewels. They all look pretty.”
He and Carroll played with the story’s premise.
“We did a ghost interpretation of Dickens,” Palkovic said. “He’s spending his afterlife giving readings with his late-life partner, Ellen Ternan. He just wore out his wife. She had 10 children by him. He had such tremendous energy. She was never able to keep up with him.
“He found this other woman in theater. He started his relationship with Ellen Ternan. His life closed like a book. He would deny he was doing anything with her. He separated from his wife. He never disclosed what really went on. He died at Ellen’s house and was spirited over to his wife’s house in the night. The scandal was he was with Ellen when he died. There’s enough evidence that you could make that supposition. We have some fun playing with that premise because I’m trying to do the reading the way Dickens would have done it. So, I make my hair look as much like Dickens as possible.”
Email Robin Caudell:firstname.lastname@example.orgIF YOU GO WHAT: "A Christmas Carol" performed by Tim Palkovic and the Mosaic Ensemble under the direction of Sue Carroll. WHEN: 3 pm. Sunday and Dec. 15. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. WHERE: Plattsburgh Memorial Chapel, 100 U.S. Oval, Plattsburgh. ADMISSION: $10 to benefit the Plattsburgh Memorial Chapel. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at the Party Factory in the Plattsburgh Plaza, Aubuchon Hardware in Skyway Plaza, Cook & Gardener at 139 Tom Miller Road and Corner-Stone Bookstore at 110 Margaret St. Plattsburgh.