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Theatre / Ebenezer

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Ebenezer is a musical prequel to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, with music and book by Maurice Walters and Christopher Sparkhall. It tells the tale of the early years of Scrooge's life, how he gained his notoriety, his partnership with Jacob Marley, and the dark secrets that lay in his past...

The musical was written over a period of two years and premiered in the Canford School in 2011. The entire soundtrack can be heard in two parts on Soundcloud, and a synopsis can be found here. Act 1 can be seen here, and Act 2 here.

Not to be confused with Ebenezer (1998), a film starring Jack Palance as Scrooge in the frontier.

This musical contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Scrooge's fiancée was renamed from Belle to Emily.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Jacob Marley is much more malicious than in the book, as he was in a one-sided love with Scrooge and Fran's mother despite her having a husband, impregnates and kills Fran as an act of revenge on their family, convinces Scrooge his fiancée Emily was cheating on him, and convinces him to foreclose Emily's orphanage on Christmas Eve, killing everyone there.
    • Scrooge is also worse than in the book. When Dickens reveals Marley's crimes to him, he reveals he'd known about Marley from the start and is fine with all they'd done, including viciously attacking Emily himself and ordering the foreclosure.
  • Age Lift: While how old he was in the book is ambiguous, here Jacob Marley is old enough to have romanced Scrooge's mother, making him much older than usual portrayals.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Jacob Marley is a toxic influence on Scrooge and is directly responsible for heinous crimes. However, Scrooge becomes just as bad, and him knowing about Marley and not caring makes him even worse in some ways.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: The school Scrooge's father sends him and Fran to has no time for toys or imagination, focusing solely on facts and money-making.
  • Clock Tower: The background for the show is a projection of a clock tower, also featuring on the poster.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Jacob Marley's modus operandi is to corrupt the young Scrooge, wreck his life, and teach him to only love money.
  • Creepy Child: The spirits of ragged orphans accost Marley and drag him down below as he dies.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • "Air Balloon," originally an uplifting song about Scrooge and Emily's romance, gets a dark reprise as Emily and the orphans freeze to death.
    • "Out, Out" was already a dark song about Scrooge and Marley kicking the cast out of the firm when they tried to make Scrooge see reason, but its reprise is even worse as Scrooge and Marley kick Emily and the orphans onto the streets to die.
  • Darker and Edgier: Murder, destruction, and secrets abound that cast a dark light on the original story.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Scrooge is this to Charles Dickens upon learning his occupation and intent to write.
    Scrooge: Oh, good heavens! Authors writing books. Whatever's next?
  • Death by Adaptation: Scrooge's fiancée lives in the book but dies here.
  • Death by Childbirth: Scrooge's mother died giving birth to him, causing his father to send him away. Marley invokes this with Fran to make Scrooge hate Fred.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Subverted. Upon his death, Marley claims to realize where he went wrong and says he can still make amends, but it's much too late for that.
  • Downer Ending: The musical ends with Jacob Marley dead and doomed, Dickens disgusted at Scrooge knowing and not caring about the truth, and Scrooge rejecting everyone and everything with a "Bah, humbug."
  • Dying Dream: As he dies, Jacob Marley has a song-vision of everyone he spurned chaining him up and dragging him away to Hell.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The majority of the play shows how Jacob Marley was a toxic influence in Ebenezer Scrooge's life, and how that plus the various crimes he committed changed him into a cold-hearted, selfish man. The reveal that Scrooge knew it all along and didn't care, feeling there was no goodness in the world, changes the content of the entire play and Scrooge's entire character.
  • External Retcon: Charles Dickens, upon learning the real truth behind Scrooge's past, storms out in a disgusted rage. It's implied that the A Christmas Carol we know is what he deemed worthy to publish.
  • The Grinch: Marley and Scrooge both hate Christmas, especially the caroling.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam:
    • Emily begs Scrooge to reconsider when he and Marley foreclose the orphanage, but he refuses and leaves her to die with the others.
    • Marley begs for mercy upon his death and says there's still time for him to be good, but it's too late and he's dragged down to be punished.
  • History Repeats: Scrooge's mother died giving birth to him while Fran dies giving birth to Fred. She was actually murdered by Marley.
  • Hope Spot: Towards the end of Act 2, Robert obtains information about Marley that may finally break his hold over Scrooge, but Emily throwing her arms around him in celebration when he announces his engagement is used to make Scrooge think they're having an affair. Things go downhill from there.
  • Kick the Dog: Jacob Marley stomps on Tiny Tim's leg and breaks it for no real reason other than to be cruel, then promptly sings about how the tragedy befalling Emily and the orphans is their own fault.
  • Kick the Morality Pet: Scrooge completes his transformation into a cold-hearted miser by leaving Emily and the orphans to die.
  • Like Father, Like Son: By the time Jacob Marley meets him, Scrooge has largely adopted his father's avaricious ways, with only Emily's dreams tempering him from becoming an exact copy.
  • Money Song:
    • Scrooge's father gets the first version of "Listen, Ebenezer" as he extols in his son the virtues of money.
    • Jacob Marley gets "Nothing Matters Except the Money," as he talks Scrooge into foreclosing the orphanage where his love interest works for the sake of cash.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: The show explores how Scrooge became the cold-hearted miser he is at the start of A Christmas Carol.
  • Recurring Riff: Almost every song gets a reprise at least once.
  • Recursive Canon: In the prologue, Scrooge speaks with Charles Dickens, who's looking to publish a book based on his life and wishes to inform him of a scandal buried deep in his past.
  • The Reveal: Scrooge knew about Marley's ways from the start and didn't care.
  • Spinning Clock Hands: As Marley dies, the clock hands in the background spin wildly, lit in red.
  • Straw Nihilist: It's revealed Scrooge is this, believing there is no goodness in this world—and whatever goodness there is is extinguished.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Scrooge feels enough grief at Marley's death, despite his heinous crimes, to shut everything and everyone out when he dies.
  • Villain Song:
    • Jacob Marley gets quite a few, including "Listen, Ebenezer" and its reprise, "For A Moment I Was Good," and "Nothing Matters Except the Money."
    • Scrooge and Marley both get "Out, Out" and its reprise, and Scrooge gets a solo in the finale where he echoes Marley's words.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Jacob Marley kills Fran this way at the start of Act 2.
  • Wham Line: The majority of the play is built up as a story Dickens tells Scrooge to get him to realize the truth about Jacob Marley and his past. Then it's revealed Scrooge knew it from the start.
    Scrooge: You must think me a simpleton, sir. Don't you think I've known about everything from the start? Don't you think I've known about Marley's motives all along?
  • Yandere: Jacob Marley was in a one-sided love with Scrooge's mother, and her death giving birth to Scrooge spurred him to take revenge on his family. Notably, it's never said if she reciprocated his affections at all or if they even met in person, and she already had a loving husband.