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Lots of options for ‘A Christmas Carol’

In 1843, British author Charles Dickens spent several weeks writing the “ghostly little book” that would become his most beloved work.

Over 175 years later, “A Christmas Carol” shows no sign of losing its perennial popularity, with countless new versions and tributes emerging every year.

For fans of Dickens, Scrooge and Tiny Tim, here are a dozen ways to enjoy this seasonal favorite.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

(novel, 1843)

Why not kick back and actually read the entire story as Dickens originally penned it? You’ll be surprised how much is omitted from the various stage and screen versions — and you might even notice something new about the timeless tale. That always happens to me when I read it every year at this season.

SCROOGE, a.k.a. A CHRISTMAS CAROL (movie, 1951)

Many fans feel this black-and-white classic is the single best film version. At nearly 70 years old, it is creaky in spots; but the acting is sensational — especially Alastair Sim, who makes a miracle out of Scrooge’s transformation. Plus, the script adds a twist with the old codger’s sister that explains why he resents both his nephew and the idea of marriage.

THE FRIENDLY DICKENS

(compendium, 1998)

Folks seeking an intro to the author himself could not do better than Norrie Epstein’s breezy, encyclopedic book — crammed with photos, artwork, excerpts, summaries, anecdotes, trivia and biographical tidbits.

MR. TIMOTHY

(novel, 2003)

Various fictional sequels and prequels to “Carol” have been attempted; but — except for the dandy 2016 entry listed below — Louis Bayard’s story of the adult Tim Cratchit is probably the best: a slam-bang action-mystery, with an enchanting portrait of the very aged Scrooge and one truly Dickensian character (Colin the Melodious).

THE ANNOTATED

CHRISTMAS CAROL

(book, 2004)

Carefully compiled by scholar Michael Patrick Hearn, this beautiful and majestic volume is a perfect gift for the “Carol”-lover on your list. It contains the complete text of Dickens’ novel, with copious footnotes, drawings, essays and photos offering all the explanatory background you could want on every detail in the story.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

(audio, 2006)

In 1987, Sir Patrick Stewart did the “Carol” as a one-man show in Britain and on Broadway — playing 30 different characters! This CD reissue captures that performance in all its glory and remains my favorite among countless audio versions (Ronald Colman, Lionel Barrymore, Basil Rathbone, Alec Guinness, Jonathan Winters, Tim Curry — and many others).

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

(graphic novel, 2008)

Adapted by Sean Michael Wilson, this robust comic-style version serves as a fine intro for reluctant young readers. In contrast to other graphic-novel adapters of the “Carol,” Wilson preserves huge chunks of Dickens’ delicious prose.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

(animated movie, 2009)

Dickens’ great-great-grandson Gerald often does one-man performances of “Carol” in Lewisburg (more info below); one year I asked him which movie he preferred and was thrilled when he tapped this terrific Jim Carrey version directed by stop-motion-pioneer Robert Zemeckis (“Polar Express,” “Forrest Gump,” “Back to the Future”). Though it gets carried away in one action scene, Zemeckis’ screenplay is incredibly attentive to the text, including some items I have not seen in any other adaptation. Carrey is marvelous, tamping down his usual clownish antics; he also plays all three ghosts!

THE FURTHER

ADVENTURES OF

EBENEZER SCROOGE

(novel, 2016)

Penned by Lewis Carroll scholar Charlie Lovett, this story of Scrooge’s later life is the best of many adjunct “Carol” novels; here, the joyously reformed old man works again with all three Christmas spirits to reclaim the souls of several friends who’ve lost their way. Evokes Dickens on every page, yet never feels like a slavish imitation.

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (movie, 2017)

“Downton Abbey’s” dashing Dan Stevens plays Dickens in this delightful biopic about the author’s struggle to complete his book in time for Christmas. Covers several aspects of the writer’s personal life, while various characters from the book come to life and argue with him about his plot. The great Christopher Plummer, still stealing scenes at age 87, plays Scrooge.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

(radio performance, 2020)

Nearly every year at this time, the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble mounts its impressive staging of “Carol” in the nearby town. Since that was off the table this season, the BTE’s talented ensemble performed a free live radio version on WVIA on Dec. 20; it is now available for streaming at btepodcast.org.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

(recorded for streaming, 2020)

Live readings of “Christmas Carol” originated with the author himself, who often performed the entire story on tours through Britain and America. In recent years, the writer’s great-great-grandson, Gerald, has re-created these shows, often stopping at the Country Cupboard in Lewisburg. For 2020, the actor recorded a performance of his one-man show at Rochester Cathedral in Kent (United Kingdom). $20 for one rental through Dec. 31; Google streaming Christmas Carol Gerald.

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