Charles Dickens’ classic, “A Christmas Carol,” has been with us for nearly 200 years; and has probably been presented in 200 different ways…from a 1901 film to a 1962 television cartoon with Mr. Magoo to a high-tech 3D film in 2009. From a church off the beaten path comes #201.
Dublin’s Radiant Life Church (RLC) has long used plays and other dramatic presentations to present the gospel, and “The Gospel According to Scrooge” carries on the tradition. An affiliate of the Assemblies of God, RLC has successfully achieved a delicate balance: stay close enough to Dickens’ novella to placate the purists while taking only what artistic license is necessary to get the message of Jesus Christ across.
(Note: Radiant Life Church did not author the play. “The Gospel According to Scrooge” was written in 1980 as a Christmas production for a church in Minneapolis and was converted to a television production in 1982. It has been licensed for performance rights at 1500 churches in 8 countries since then.)
The most noticeable difference is that the ‘ghosts’ are ‘angels’. This change gives a little breathing room to expand the characters. But whatever they’re labeled as, they’re still ‘past’, ‘present’, and ‘future’. (And without giving away too much, let’s just say that the ethereal visitors can have as much impact as their counterparts in any adaptation.) The Jacob Marley portrayal is true to the original.
In the final tally, it’s a production that will leave all members of the audience entertained, informed, and improved. It was Dickens’ intent to correct the poverty, social injustice, and pain wrought by the Industrial Revolution to London—and especially upon its children—that led to his writing “A Christmas Carol.” The church’s presentation veers only slightly from this theme by subtly introducing elements of change within the individual by acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This circumstance-response hinges upon a crucial scene, where the young Ebenezer is subjected to a traumatic event that causes him to turn from a happy youth into the hardened, miserly individual he became.
The most significant elements, however, are children and music. RLC cherishes both, and can almost put it in writing that parents will be smiling & beaming for 7-10 days—guaranteed.
Overall, production values are quite good. It is, first and foremost, an amateur production, and participants point to this with pride. Some cast members pull double duty, performing one minute and working props the next. Most, if not all, of the cast and crew are church members or related to church members. However, this doesn’t diminish their credentials: the principals are professionally trained, have worked on outside productions, and could easily make it in the road show of “Cats”—if they were so inclined.
There was a time when going to a church play meant metal folding chairs, a temporary stage, and the acoustics of a back alley. Not so, in this case.
Performance arts are an integral part of the church’s ministry, and obviously a consideration from the first artist’s rendering. The venue is the sanctuary, a thousand-seat auditorium with full carpeting, cushioned theater seats, and permanent stage lighting. The sound system would be just about adequate for a Van Halen concert. And, there are access tunnels under the stage…like you’d find at a high-priced theater. The building, which opened its doors in 2007, is comfortable and fully equipped.
Like a Broadway show, RLC has a more or less steady cast of actors who are as committed to the message as they are to the play. Arne Wadenstierna has been playing the role of Bob Cratchit for three years. His take is, “It’s a great opportunity to show the power of change that people can experience. The Cratchit role is one that shows a guy who’s reflective of a lot of people who just work hard every day and do the right thing. And good can happen from that.” Six-year ‘Scrooge’ veteran Doug Hughes amplifies this: “It’s just a great reminder of how we really need the forgiveness of Christ. We all come into this world with sin in our lives; and we need to recognize it first then turn to the one who can actually make the change in our life. I hope people who come and see it really get a lot out of it as well…more than just entertainment but a good message.”
This the tenth and final year of “The Gospel According to Scrooge”; the church has decided to retire the presentation after this round for an indefinite, undetermined period.
Click here for more pictures of the play.
Click here for lobby shots.
Click here for the cute kids.