North Coast Rep hosts world premiere of a very different ‘Christmas Carol’

James Newcomb in "A Christmas Carol" at North Coast Repertory Theatre
James Newcomb narrates “A Christmas Carol” in a world premiere filmed adaptation for North Coast Repertory Theatre.
(Courtesy of Aaron Rumley)

James Newcomb stars in Dickens tale told from a fresh perspective


In the final lines of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella “A Christmas Carol,” readers learn that Ebenezer Scrooge’s overnight transformation from a miser to a charitable man was no passing fancy. “Scrooge was better than his word,” Dickens summed up. “He did it all, and infinitely more.”

But that’s where the book ends. Now, a new stage adaptation of the story opening for streaming Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 9, imagines how Scrooge’s change of heart might have impacted others in Victorian London who benefited from his generosity.

North Coast Repertory Theatre commissioned the adaptation from playwright Zander Michaelson, which is titled “A Christmas Carol: As told by one man to whom it matters.”

North Coast’s artistic director David Ellenstein directs the 75-minute piece, which was filmed without an audience last month at the Solana Beach theater. It stars local actor James Newcomb as the narrator and all of the other characters in the book.

Ellenstein said Michaelson’s script has an interesting twist in that the storyteller has his own connection to Scrooge’s story, though just how he is related to the plot is a surprise.

“The whole conceit of this adaptation is that it is personal to this observer,” Ellenstein said. “You find out why as it goes and it enhances what is important in the story and why the story is told over and over again and in so many ways. There the idea of redemption and it’s never too late in life to give to others. This is a person who has been so affected by this story specifically.”

Ellenstein said he was excited to have an actor of Newcomb’s experience play the multifacted role. Newcomb has performed all over the country as a Shakespearean actor and he teaches fight choreography in UC San Diego’s graduate theater program. His local credits have included “Twelfth Night,” “Coriolanus” and “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Old Globe; “Angels in America” at Cygnet Theatre; “Honky” at San Diego Repertory Theatre; and “How the Other Half Loves” at North Coast.

“We’re so lucky to have someone like him here. He’s a hidden gem,” Ellenstein said. “He’s so talented and charming and funny and to have him in San Diego now is a really great resource.”

The new adaptation covers all of the major plot points of “A Christmas Carol” and it includes an under-score of recorded traditional Christmas carols. The play was filmed by cinematographer Aaron Rumley.

Ellenstein said the play is a perfect antidote to the darkness the pandemic has brought to the region this year and its message of goodwill is especially timely.

“It’s never too late to find Christmas spirit in your heart, as it were, and give that back to the world,” Ellenstein said.

North Coast Repertory Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol: As told by one man to whom it matters”

Streaming: 2 p.m. Wednesday to 11 a.m. Dec. 31

Tickets: $35 for a 48-hour rental


— Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune