Patrick Stewart's one-man version of "A Christmas Carol" was originally presented on Broadway last season. The show has reopened at the Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44th Street, Manhattan. Following are excerpts from Mel Gussow's review, which appeared in The New York Times on Dec. 20, 1991.
"A Christmas Carol" has been so musicalized and cinematized that it may be difficult to remember the beautiful simplicity of the original Dickens story, an ode to Christmas past, present and future and a moral fable of heartwarming intensity. Patrick Stewart's one-man dramatic version is restorative, revealing the work's full narrative splendor.
Because of Mr. Stewart's virtuosity, the show could be considered a coda to the Royal Shakespeare Company's "Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby." The actor offers his solo equivalent of that expansive ensemble act of the imagination, making an audience believe it has entered a magical world dense with character, atmosphere and action.
His supple look and voice enable him to portray the widest range of Dickens characters without altering his costume or makeup. Classically trained, he has the verbal dexterity of Ian McKellen. All this is combined with his own delectation in peformance. In this show, that performance is both Dickensian and Shakespearean, savoring each role as well as the lush descriptive language and, whenever possible, re-creating dramatic encounters.
All of the essentials are in place, with the accent on the juxtaposition of despair and joyfulness. At the center, of course, is that "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner," Ebenezer Scrooge. Mr. Stewart allows for no softening around the edges, in either the character or the story, yet he does not make Scrooge into a caricatured villain.
As Scrooge is returned to his past and then recalled to life, Mr. Stewart plays all the roles as well as imitating sounds like chiming clocks and bells. He mimes the props and the scenic effects, simulating the wind on the streets and the echoes in Scrooge's solitary chamber. As called for, he is cheerful, sepulchral, childlike and feminine, as well as stouthearted when it comes to Bob Cratchit.
The Cratchit Christmas dinner, in which the actor portrays the entire family, Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present, and is also on the verge of impersonating the goose on the table and the Christmas pudding with holly stuck into the top, is a tour de force. It reminds us not only of what an inventive actor he is, but also of Dickens's own great theatricality.
Seeing the actor in this show is the closest we can come to Dickens in his public performance, in which he also dominated a bare stage with his talent and with zest for his subject. At the end of Mr. Stewart's eloquent "Christmas Carol," one wishes he would move on to "The Cricket on the Heart" and other Dickensian treasures.