Czech Puppet Theater Presents New Adaptation of Christmas Carol

COBBLE HILL — For the delight of audiences aged 5 to 105, the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater offers A Christmas Carol, Oy! Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa (Happy Ramadan) from Dec. 15 to Jan. 1 at Clockworks Puppet Theatre, 196 Columbia St. (between Sackett and Degraw streets, Brooklyn).

The show is an adaptation of Dickens’ classic with Old World accents and New World inclusiveness.

Adapted and directed by Vit Horejs, it features over 30 puppets by Milos Kasal and holiday songs in Czech, English, Hebrew and Swahili. The set and costume design are by company member Michelle Beshaw.

This toy-puppet theatre extravaganza is a new take on Charles Dickens’ classic with a few twists and digressions. Into the familiar story are woven a surprising and delightful blend of English, Jewish, African, American and Czech winter rituals, customs and holiday songs, all performed by over three dozen marionettes ranging in size from 4 to 24 inches as well as found objects and toys.

Horejs operates the whole cast of puppets, backed up by a live chorus: Czech, English, Hebrew and Swahili songs are performed by an acapella choir of Judith Barnes and Hayden DeWitt. The piece is still set in Old London, but with Czech accents. Imagine that the familiar tale was told to you not by an English serial novelist, but by your Czech grandmother.

The production debuted in 2001 at the Jan Hus Playhouse as the lead show of a “Magic of Czech Puppetry” festival. Its popularity led to revivals in 2002, 2004 and 2005. Laurel Graber (New York Times) called the show a “delightful holiday hodgepodge that still hews closely to Dickens’s tale and also has contemporary humor.”

Revisiting the show in 2005, Graeber declared, “Mr. Horejs’s 75-minute unorthodox mix is always fun,” adding, “This is indeed Dickens’s story, though Mr. Horejs’s approach is hardly Victorian. Scrooge asks the ghosts whether he will get frequent-flier miles, and when Fezziwig, Scrooge’s old mentor, appears, he is singing “The Dreidel Song.” (He explains that his family name was originally Feinstein.) “In Christmas yet to come, Scrooge’s tenants celebrate being free of him with Hebrew songs and menorah-lighting. At one point, a huge camel marionette arrives.”

Horejs, an emigre from Prague, founded Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre in 1990, utilizing century-old Czech puppets that he found at Jan Hus Church on East 74th Street in Manhattan. His trademark is using puppets of many sizes, from 6-inch toy marionettes to 12-foot rod puppets that double as scenery.

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For tickets, call SMARTTIX at (212) 868-4444 or visit www.smarttix.com

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Filed under Arts, Cobble Hill, Kids & Education, Up & Coming

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