Capturing the essence of the Christmas spirit is not an easy task. However, Charles Dickens' classic story A Christmas Carol manages to do just that. Blending themes of compassion, togetherness, transformation and forgiveness, it's a multidimensional tale that has entertained generations of people while serving as a reminder of the importance of goodwill towards our fellow man.
Bringing that reminder to Nova Scotia's South Shore this December is playwright and actor, John D. Houston. Based in Toronto, the seasoned thespian's first visit to the province will see him perform his one-man rendition of A Christmas Carol at the iconic Astor Theatre in Liverpool.
For those seeking an authentic A Christmas Carol experience, Houston's play, developed using scripts and working notes written by Dickens from the 1860s, is as close to the real thing as it gets in 2019.
"My performance is a recreation. When you see me doing it, you're seeing how the author of the work intended it," says Houston. "When Dickens began these performances, he was already very famous, so there was a lot of attention paid to it as there was no way to record it, except by writing very detailed written records."
Being one of the first modern-day celebrities, Dickens used theatre as his own form of therapy by delivering one-person shows derived from his beloved piece of literature—assuring all eyes were on him.
"He did it as a one-person show because he was starved for adulation and attention," says Houston. "At the time, his marriage was breaking up and he wanted the reassurance that his reading public was still there for him—he really needed to be loved."
Ready for his own adulation, Houston, who mainly performs one-person shows, will give audience members at The Astor his nearly 700th showing of the classic Christmas tale.
The evening will see Houston dressed in a simple suit and tie as he rotates through the story's many characters from Ebenezer Scrooge to Tiny Tim. Featuring Juno Award-winning vocalist, Laura Smith, who will lend her talents by singing various carols—it's a rendition of a story Houston says continues to touch many people.
"I think the principal attraction to the story is that everyone wants a second chance, everyone wants a do-over on something in their life," says Houston. "A Christmas Carol holds up that possibility that you can make things right with your family, friends, co-workers, the world at large."
Additionally, despite Christmas' Christian roots, Houston notes Dickens' story doesn't make many religious references at all. However, it does emphasize the truly important aspects of a holiday so often plagued by commercialism.
"It's interesting that in a story about Christmas, there's almost no mention of religion," says Houston. "What Dickens emphasizes is family and being charitable, kind, and thinking about the poor who are struggling."
And while A Christmas Carol contains many intricate layers of literary excellence, Houston sees nothing wrong with good old fashion fun. He hopes his play entertains and helps kick off the holidays for all who come to see him perform.
"There's something for everyone. It's sentimental, it's funny, it's a ghost story; it's a whole bunch of different genres. Kids can listen to the story, grown-ups and thoughtful people can come and hear a message which is still very relevant," says Houston. “I’m just thrilled to have this opportunity."
A CHRISTMAS CAROL Feat. John D. Hudson & Musical Guest Laura Smith
When: Dec 13 @ 7:30 p.m.
Where: 219 Main St, Liverpool, Nova Scotia
For more info, visit astortheatre.ns.ca/wp/