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A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens

Or, An Audiobook Narrator Says Merry Christmas the Only Way He Knows How, By Running His Mouth, and Sharing His Take on the Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told

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Well, it’s Christmas again.  I realize, of course, that you’ve probably been hearing Christmas music in your local Target since late August, but the traditional start of the holiday season is the moment Santa Claus makes his appearance at the end of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which means that it’s finally official: it’s Christmastime, once again.  And I couldn’t be happier. Each year, as December rolls around, I’m reminded of one of the best periods of my life, when I appeared in…

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Well, it’s Christmas again.  I realize, of course, that you’ve probably been hearing Christmas music in your local Target since late August, but the traditional start of the holiday season is the moment Santa Claus makes his appearance at the end of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which means that it’s finally official: it’s Christmastime, once again.  And I couldn’t be happier.

Each year, as December rolls around, I’m reminded of one of the best periods of my life, when I appeared in a touring production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL with my Shakespearean acting group, Will & Company.  Together we would take all of our various classical productions on the road throughout the state of California, and while December would always be a slow month for Shakespeare, it more than made up for this by the rush on Charles Dickens.  One year we were booked into more than a hundred performances, just in that brief span.  Think about that: 100 performances between December 1st and Christmas, less than twenty days, given that we only performed on school days.  We had to form a second company to handle the shows we couldn’t do personally.  It was nuts, but we all loved it.

I first played Ebenezer Scrooge when I was in high school, living in Porterville, California, acting with the local children’s theater company.  Given that I was the oldest person in the cast, it was fairly logical I’d get tapped to play the squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner, and I had a blast.  Great fun, and we performed for over a thousand people one night. (Small towns really turn out to support their own.) Flash-forward to ten years later: after leaving UCLA and hooking up with Will & Company, I got to reconnect with the show in a terrific way: by playing virtually every male part in the story.

Jacob Marley (who was once introduced by our very tired narrator as “Bob Marley,” at which point I entered bobbing to a Rasta beat, much to Scrooge’s chagrin), Bob Cratchit, the gentleman at the top of the show who makes the error in judgment to ask Scrooge for a charitable donation, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet To Come… I even played the narrator, Charles Dickens himself, once, when that actor took sick.  That was the day I realized I had performed this play so many times – hundreds, in fact – that I rarely had to look down at the text to narrate the show; I’d virtually memorized the whole thing.

Colin Cox was our artistic director and he had originally adapted this show himself, using the text Dickens had used on tour, reading the tale to hungry American audiences, an abridgement wholly approved by the author that also made it an ideal length for performing at schools.  Well, several years later, I asked Colin if I could make some amendments to the adaptation, and he happily agreed.  To do so, I borrowed from some of my favorite productions of the show over the years, adding lovely moments from the radio adaptation performed by Lionel Barrymore and Orson Welles in 1939 – such as the moment Bob Cratchit offers tuppence to the charitable gentleman after Scrooge angrily turns him away – as well as stage adaptations I’d seen, most notably Patrick Stewart’s one-man version.  In it, scenes that were alluded to in the text but didn’t actually appear, such as Tiny Tim singing a song at Christmas dinner, or Scrooge attending church services in the final act, were fleshed out so that we actually heard Tiny Tim sing, and saw Scrooge struggling to find the melody in a crowd of worshipers singing a Christmas hymn.  They were wonderful moments, and I wanted to experience them myself, so in they went.

We had a lovely time that year, my last season with the company, and it was the first time I’d played Scrooge since high school.  Wendy Robie, she ofTWIN PEAKS fame (Nadine, the eyepatch lady), actually played Dickens for us.  We were a company that prided ourselves on being gender- and ethnicity-blind when it came to casting, and given Wendy’s love of the story, it seemed a natural she should play our narrator.  She looked fabulous in a Dickensian tuxedo, and performed her part with relish.  Wendy told me afterward that it was the greatest time she’d ever had onstage, and I treasure that memory to this day.

An especially nice thing happened that season: having just created its website that year, Will & Company put together a separate webpage devoted to each of its touring productions.  Given that I was directing and starring in A CHRISTMAS CAROL that year, I wrote up that particular page. I whipped together a brief description of the story’s creation, peppering it with little known facts and quotations from reviews it received upon its debut, then summed it all up by saying what we hoped to accomplish with our rendition of it.  Well, that particular page proved very popular in Google searches, getting thousands of page hits, and I received dozens of emails shortly thereafter, primarily from people who were staging their own version of the CAROL and wanted to know if they could print my essay as the liner notes in their theatrical programs.  I was honored, and always said yes.  And anyone who read that page when it was up on the website years ago will recognize it when you listen to my recording: I adapted that essay into the introduction for this volume.

So, in a sense, my Will & Company introduction is a BONUS FEATURE on A CHRISTMAS CAROL, but there’s another that I think you’ll really enjoy. Along with your MP3s or CDs you’ll receive a file containing copies of artist John Leech’s eight illustrations that accompanied the original printing of A CHRISTMAS CAROL way back in 1843.  Given how much Leech’s work enhanced Dickens’s magnificent story, I thought it was only appropriate to include them here.

[A CHRISTMAS CAROL - The Last of the Spirits] Getting to record A CHRISTMAS CAROL this year has, in many ways, brought me back to my roots in acting.  It’s reminded me of the power of sharing wonderful stories, forcefully imagined and executed, stories that are unashamedly sentimental, and all the more powerful for it.  None of us would appreciate this tale were it not so clear-cut in its morality, nor would we see ourselves in Scrooge were he not so much larger than life.  And every moment I spent in the studio recording it, every line that came out of my mouth, brought back a wonderful memory from my days on the road, sharing this story with children of all ages.  It’s also allowed me the chance to work with one of my oldest friends, John Massey, a buddy from Ocean View High School who created a lovely and haunting soundtrack that I think you’ll really love.  In short, recording this book has been a gift I’ll treasure always. 

That’s the wonderful thing about gifts, isn’t it?  Here I’d intended the story as a gift to people who enjoy my work and wanted something special to listen to this Christmas. Yet it turns out that it’s I who’ve been blessed, getting to relive the memories of so many of the great people and events in my life connected to Charles Dickens’s classic tale.

Whatever your faith, I hope this Christmas season is everything you wish it to be, and that happiness, blessings and prosperity will pour forth abundantly upon your families in the year to come.  I hope that this is the year we all discover how to keep Christmas in our hearts, no matter the season.  May that be truly said of us, and all of us.  Thanks so very much for your support.  As always, thanks for listening.

Scott Brick

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A Christmas Carol

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Scott Brick as Scrooge

Did a vistitation by Spirits engender this holiday generosity?

Comments

Skip says:

Is there any possibility that these will eventually be available through audible.com?  It’s not that audible.com is cheaper for me (though that is certainly true) its that being on the ‘2 books a month’ plan there almost completely fills my available listening time, leaving very little room for works that aren’t available there.

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This is fantastic!  Absolutely awesome!  Congrats on the success.  All that hard work is paying off.

Will the Legacy trilogy be available in a spiffy little bundle of joy?  Packaged up with a bow on the box?

Probably too big to be a stocking stuffer, unless you have like the biggest socks in the whole world.

Keep up the good work!  The world always needs more audio-goodness. :)

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Warren says:

First of all, keep up the good work. I just checked the website and saw the plans for the coming year.

Awesome !!!!

The Phoenix Legacy was one of my favorites, but I never kept any copies.
I can’t wait to revisit the series.

I don’t know if you appreciate, or even like, suggestions, but here goes……What about the Riverworld series by
Philip Jose Farmer ??  You know, in your spare time (wink,wink).

Appreciative Fan

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Paul says:

I just listened to the Brickcast and I really liked it. I hope you keep on doing them.

Thank you.

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Kelly says:

It’s 6 Nov 08.  I don’t see Illearth War available.  Have updated info?

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Kelly and other inquiring minds: I think our e-commerce folks have solved the hang-up, hope to have the book up very soon. We’ll notify the email list when it goes live.

Thanks for your patience!

Den Shewman
very tired CCO

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Ken Thompson says:

Scott, I know what you mean about the character developement, pathos, and sheer emotion for a mere fantasy epic.  When White Gold Wielder came out I was still in high school, and I remember my drafting teacher telling me she cried reading that book.  For me The Illearth War was one that was very hard to read slowly or put down…and yes, it too could puddle you up.  I hope that Dondaldson can recapture this in his latest Quartology.

For the record, I’ll chime in on the distribution.  I *like* iAmplify.  I’ve tried both iAmplify and Audible, and I like the high fidelity of the iAmplify stuff, and I don’t like the lousy software that Audible makes you install.  Please stick with iAmplify!

Keep up the great work!

Ken Thompson
Houston, TX

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Paul says:

Are you planning to package the Phoenix Legacy as a grouped trilogy?

Or will each book be sold individually?

I think the idea of buying a packaged trilogy with some extra goodies thrown in there is a good one.

Like when you could buy the three Peter-Jackson Lord Of The Rings Extended Editions in a single package with some cool book-end statue type things.  That was a fun purchase.

Maybe you can get some “Brick By Brick Bobbleheads” made up and throw them in for loyal fans who snag all the books in the set. :)

I’m lookin’ forward to the future.

Congrats and Best Wishes,

Paul

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lorrin says:

the donaldson trilogies literally changed the course of my very troubled life years ago, and your audio rendition brought it back to me last year when i so badly needed to hear it. thank you so much for taking on this huge project. and thank you for bringing donaldson’s words to life for me.

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