Arvada Center Blog
DIY Dickens Victorian Christmas Carol Costumes
By Leslie Simon
Halloween has come and gone, but that’s no reason to quit playing dress-up. In the spirit of our current production of A Christmas Carol, the Arvada Center invites you to put together and share your best Do-It-Yourself Dickens Victorian Christmas Carol Costume. We have pulled together some simple ideas that take the spirit of the 1800s from the stage to the audience. Show us what you come up with by sharing on your photo on social media with hashtag #ArvadaChristmasCarol and come see the real thing playing until December 22.
Scrooge – All you really need is slippers, a long white nightgown, and a robe. Use an oversized button-down shirt if you don’t have a nightgown. A stocking cap and a red scarf let you look just like the Arvada Center Scrooge, and a “Bah, Humbug!” will have you sounding like him too.
Marley – Throw on a torn and dirty old white shirt, and wrap chains around your shoulders/neck/chest. Dip a wet paintbrush into baby powder for an at-home white face paint. Now shake, rattle and roll those chains.
Ghost of Christmas Past – This costume can be a long white or cream dress or a white shirt and white pants. The Ghost of Christmas Past is sometimes shown as having a glowing head, so some white Christmas lights around your head makes a great photo, but be careful not to tie them around your neck or you’ll end up as a ghost yourself!
Ghost of Christmas Present – This costume uses a green robe or big green sweater with a brown belt around your waist, and a green wreath with holly for your head – a garland can often be found in Christmas decorations. You could even take a couple of pine branches and tie them into a circle if you wanted the real thing.
Ghost of Christmas Future – This scary ghost is often basically a Grim Reaper costume without the sickle. Wear all black clothes with a large black cape over them. Try to hide your face as much as possible, or cover with black makeup. Hanging around cemeteries and dancing on graves is optional.
Tiny Tim – Newsboy cap, scarf and a crutch with a coat that is a little too big is all you need. Even funnier if you are not tiny.
The Cratchits – The family wears outfits like the Mens and Womens costume descriptions below, but shabbier. Take a button-down shirt and cut the collar off, leaving a frayed raw hem. Tie rags and pieces of torn cloth to hats and clothes. The more layers the better. It gets cold when there is no wood for the fire.
Women – Long maxi skirts (or add a long skirt under a shorter dress), with a thick ribbon tied around the waist with a big bow in the back. On top wear a high neck ruffled shirt, a plain turtleneck, or a sweater with puffy sleeves. A white button-down shirt can be worn backward with the buttons up the back for a clean high-neck look. Make sure to wrap a solid or plaid scarf or crocheted shawl around your shoulders. (Or use last year’s green velvet Christmas tree skirt for the ultimate in reusable costuming!) Big hats and bonnets were popular, but if you want to go hatless, a bun low at the nape of the neck or braids are also a classic look. Fingerless gloves or a muff finish the look off.
Men – Dark or plaid pants, a white, dark solid or paisley shirt, knee-length coat, vest, top hat. Finish off with either a scarf, velvety cravat in any color, or a simple thin black ribbon tie. To create a simple cravat, take a scarf and put the middle of it at the front of your neck, wrap the ends all the way around your neck and then tie in the front like a bow. Leave loose or tuck in to a vest or buttoned-up coat. Now get out there, love mankind and be merry!
Larry Cahn – On Becoming Scrooge
By Leslie Simon
There is a little good and a little bad in all of us, and when seasoned actor Larry Cahn takes on a role, it’s up to him to find all of those facets of a character’s personality. In the Arvada Center’s upcoming production of A Christmas Carol, Larry portrays Ebenezer Scrooge, a character who seems bad on the exterior, but finds his good with the help of others.
To see show times and buy tickets to A Christmas Carol, visit the webpage at https://arvadacenter.org/a-christmas-carol-the-musical-2019
- Here at the Center, audiences may have seen you in a variety of different roles. Do you prefer playing a hero or a villain?
What I am truly grateful for is the opportunity the Center has afforded me to play such diverse roles. What is most important to me is the work, not the specific character. I am fortunate that I’m a character actor, and can’t really be pigeonholed as a hero or villain.
- How does your approach to building a character differ when you are a good guy (Cahn played Otto Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank this past spring) versus a bad guy (like Mayor Dobbs in Bright Star, this fall)?
Everything starts with the written word. After that, the approach is the same. Who is this guy? What does he want? What does he need to do to get it? What is standing in his way? The answers can be found in the text. What informs my character most is “where does the character begin, and where is he when the story is ended?” My job is then to create a character who can start and end in line with the story that the author is telling.
- There have been many adaptations of A Christmas Carol over the years. Which version is your favorite, and did its Scrooge influence your portrayal?
Hands down, my favorite adaptation is Alastair Sim’s portrayal from the 1951 film. In my opinion, it’s one of the great performances on film. You can see from the beginning that what some people would see as his villainy is deeply rooted in the pain he feels, the loneliness, the bitterness. I am wary of psychoanalyzing a fictional character created 50 years before psychoanalysis, but the Scrooge we see at the end of the 1951 film is clearly the man that was inside him all along, and no one ever showed us that better than Sim. Does it influence my portrayal? Absolutely! I will unabashedly and unashamedly steal from Mr. Sim at every opportunity!
- Who would you rather be visited by in real life- Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, or Future?
I’d have to say the Ghost of Christmas Past. I don’t live in the past as a rule, but the opportunity to see myself as a child or younger man from the perspective of the current me is so intriguing. And the opportunity to once again see those people who are important in my life but are long gone is almost irresistible.
- What message does Scrooge have for people out there regarding having compassion during the holiday season?
Well, of course, the story has never really been about the holiday season. I think Dickens uses Christmas as an opportunity to remind us all of what’s really important – 365 days a year. How terrible would the world be if all bets were off on human behavior except for the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Hopefully, the story is an opportunity for all of us to do a bit of self-reflection. And to appreciate what we have, what we can give, and ultimately the understanding that it’s never too late to strive to be our best selves.
Twelve Days of A Christmas Carol Adaptations
By Leslie Simon
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… twelve different adaptations of A Christmas Carol! The 1843 novella by Charles Dickens is part redemption tale and part social commentary on the poor factory working conditions at the time. There have been over 35 adaptations of this holiday classic on both the stage and the silver screen, from the good to the bad, ranging from choppy silent movies to animated versions featuring Scrooge McDuck. Share your favorite with us, and come see the Arvada Center’s musical production of A Christmas Carol opening Nov. 22nd!
For show times and tickets click here- https://arvadacenter.org/a-christmas-carol-the-musical-2019
- Scrooge, or Marley’s Ghost (1901) Known as the earliest film adaptation of A Christmas Carol, this silent movie uses clever film tricks to superimpose Jacob Marley’s ghostly face on a doorknob.
- A Christmas Carol (1910) This silent film version from the Thomas Edison film studio relies heavily on body language and descriptive on-screen captions.
- Scrooge (1951) Considered by many to be the finest portrayal of Scrooge, Alastair Sim brings a lot of heart and depth to the miserly curmudgeon.
- The Stingiest Man in Town (1956) Famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, Basil Rathbone’s Scrooge sings and dances in this full-length musical version that has a bestselling soundtrack containing music by Canadian singing quartet The Four Lads.
- A Christmas Carol (1982) This cheaply-made but cheerfully charming Australian made-for-television animated version stays true to the book, and some of the animators went on to create Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) This popular animated version stars Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge – who else? It earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film, Mickey’s first nomination since 1948.
- A Christmas Carol (1984) Filmed in the English medieval town of Shrewsbury, this made-for-tv classic sets the standard for gorgeous film locations and mean Scrooge portrayals. Nobody says “Bah, humbug!” with as much gravitas as George C. Scott.
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) Narrated by Charles Dickens (played by Gonzo), this wacky but earnest popular classic loved by audiences both young and old has everyone’s favorite puppets stealing scenes from Michael Caine’s Scrooge.
- A Christmas Carol (1997) This critically panned version sees Scrooge with a pet dog named Debit and is notably voiced by Tim Curry and Whoopi Goldberg.
- Scrooged (1998) Bill Murray portrays Scrooge as a selfish TV executive in this modern adaptation of the Dickens classic. Scrooged was Murray’s first film after Ghostbusters, and the script has many ghost jokes that pay homage to the blockbuster. Carole Kane steals the show, playing the Ghost of Christmas Present as an unstable and volatile fairy.
- A Diva’s Christmas Carol (2000) This updated retelling shows Scrooge as “Ebony Scrooge,” an egotistical, foul-mouthed pop diva played by Vanessa Williams. It’s a blast to watch Williams as she camps it up and finds the Christmas spirit by singing high-octave ballads.
- A Christmas Carol (2009) You better be a Jim Carrey fan if you are going to watch this. The zany comedian carries this film, voicing the characters of Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present AND Future. Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) says that he chose to make this adaptation because A Christmas Carol is his favorite story about time-travel.
Marvin Neil Simon was an American playwright, screenwriter and author. He wrote more than 30 plays and nearly the same number of movie screenplays, mostly adaptations of his plays. He received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer.
Born in the Bronx in 1927, Simon was forced to live with relatives due to the unhealthy nature of his parents’ relationship and the poverty of the family during the Great Depression.
Attributing his success as a writer to his ability to use comedy to block out the darkest parts of life, he once said, “I didn’t come from one broken family, but from five.”
A young man without much direction, he enlisted in the Army Air Force Reserve, which eventually led him to Colorado. In 1945 he was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base, and for a brief stint in 1945-1946 he attended Denver University. It was here in Colorado that he began his career as a writer, first as a sports editor and then as a comedy writer for radio and television shows.
He moved back to New York City in the 1950s and saw success as a television writer, working alongside the likes of other soon-to-be comedy greats like Mel Brooks. In 1961 his first Broadway play Come Blow Your Horn was produced and as he said, “the theatre and I discovered each other.” And discover each other they did – by 1965 he had written two more Broadway smash hits, Barefoot In the Park, and The Odd Couple, which won the Tony Award for best play.
Throughout the latter half of the 20th century and well into the 21st, Simon was regarded as one of the great comedy writers, renowned for his ability to approach subjects from the farcical to the deeply emotional with equal craft and sensitivity.
He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for Lost in Yonkers. Simon’s work is firmly in our cultural consciousness. Sadly, he passed away in 2018, but his legacy lives on through his volumes of plays, screenplays, and musicals.
Building the world of Bright Star
By Leslie Simon
How do you transport audiences from a wooden stage in Arvada to different locations and decades in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina? Award-winning Scenic Designer Brian Mallgrave puts deep thought and colorful imagination into creating immersive environments, something he has done for over 100 Arvada Center productions.
Brian’s latest work is for our fall musical Bright Star, by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. His designs for this musical take the audience to a specific place – Appalachia – and portray the passage of time as the musical flashes back and forth between the 1920s and 1940s.
“The main vision of the setting envelopes the story through the use of a vintage 1930s map wall to “marry” all periods and locations- ascending into a silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The flooring is representative of the porches and decking attached to our various cabin dwellings, grounding all moving scenic elements.”
Brian uses the floor to create various locations as well as add extra symbolism. “The flooring creates the symbol of a connecting star in the center- as all characters connect and grow- and starfields illuminate the sky areas above to encompass our Bright Star theme.”
In general, the set is representational – meaning it creates an illusion of reality rather than fantasy. Lighting creates an extra dimension in the two-dimensional buildings and cabins. “Much of the play is memory, and the cabin slatwork, being semi-transparent, offers interesting opportunities for lighting, representing the layers of transparency and fragments that our story often revisits.”
This use of light and movement works with the movement and passage of time in the musical. It covers a span of over 20 years – moving back and forth in the story. “There are many moving parts in the line set (used to move things up and down), background structural elements, and castered (rolling) furnishings that move to parallel the storyline as it seamlessly transitions through time periods.”
Based on music, book and lyrics written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star’s bluegrass and Americana-tinged sounds influenced the stage design that Brian created. “The musical style is a big motivator and regional influence, thus the band is featured onstage, to reinforce the impact of this element.”
Whether you are a lover of bluegrass or just a fan of a good story, there is something for everyone in Bright Star. Tickets are on sale now – it opens September 6!