Thursday, February 28, 2013

Audio Review: A Christmas Carol Radio Drama by Focus on the Family

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Classic tale in full on drama mode
Cons: A few liberties and a production flaw
The Bottom Line:
Familiar story
Full of drama, well retold
Bah Humbug for none

The Christmas Classic Comes to Life

I was a young boy the first time my mom read Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol to my family. Over the years, it has become an established part of my Christmas traditions, with several versions potentially filling the bill for my consumption each year. This year, I decided to listen to this full cast radio drama version.

The story is the same old one we have grown to love. Scrooge is a miser in 1840's London. He has no use for Christmas or human emotion of any kind. The only thing he cares about is earning more money. One Christmas Eve, he is visited by the spirit of his dead business partner. Jacob Marley has come back to warn Scrooge about the dangers of continuing his miserly ways. To further help Scrooge, Marley promises the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future will visit him. But will this be enough to reform Scrooge?

I'll admit, it's been years since I actually read the book, so I can't offer a point by point analysis of how this 90 minute radio drama adaptation compares to the book. I will say that there were several scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Past I didn't remember hearing before, but I liked them as they helped us show the progression of Scrooge's character from the youth to the miser. My biggest problem story purity wise was with the Ghost of Christmas Future. They actually give him a voice. It was perfectly creepy and fit the character well. In addition, they give him as few lines as they possibly can. But since they had a narrator, I wish they had stuck with the voiceless Spirit of the original.

This isn't to say this version is bad. The actors do a great job making the characters come to life. The sound effects and original score further help tell the story. At times, in an attempt to show a character was in another room, the characters were a little hard to hear, however. This was only a problem in a few scenes. Overall, the spirit of the original is perfectly captured by this retelling.

One addition I really liked was David Suchet as the host. His parts surround the story and help put it in its proper historic context. I had forgotten just what was happening in England that prompted Dickens to write this story, and the reminder made me see it with fresh eyes.

While not perfect, this radio drama is still a great version of a classic Christmas tale. It will introduce kids to the story and hold the entire family's attention during any long holiday trip.


  1. This version of the story I should note, was given permission to adapt the script written for the 1951 movie version that starred Alastair Sim as Scrooge. Many sequences such as Scrooge's housekeeper Mrs. Dilbert showing up on Christmas morning come from there. Also, in the version originally released on cassette, the narration was by American actor Joseph Campanella. Suchet replaced him on the CD version, though the narration script was unchanged.

    1. Obviously, I need to reread the book to catch a few of those details. Thanks for sharing this trivia.