I grew up in a family of teachers. Mostly teachers who were musically gifted in some way (piano, guitar, fiddle, singing).
I mention the music aspect because one of the things in life to which my parents exposed me was Broadway musicals. I saw Cats when I was five, and I was hooked. Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera, and a myriad of other musicals followed (The Producers, Avenue Q, and The Book of Mormon to name several others). In fact, every year through college, we took a trip to NYC between Christmas and New Year’s to see a few shows, take in the sights, and even do a little ice skating at Rockefeller Center (you know, exactly what I’m sure the locals do that time of year as well.)
Side note….Here’s a fun fact for you: the three best selling restaurants in the country for the entire 1980’s decade were, in no particular order……Tavern on the Green (the Central Park restaurant that shuttered its doors in the wake of 2008/2009), Top of the World (the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Towers), and yes, you guessed it….the Phillips restaurant in good old Charm City’s Harbor Place (which has since moved to the Power Plant).
Anyhow, that’s a long-winded way of saying that musicals are as much a part of my love for music as any other genre. And I’ve tried to instill the same thing in my girls. So far, they have been to high school theater and Baltimore productions of the Wizard of Oz, a dinner theater production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and we took my oldest to NYC a few years ago to see The Lion King. On the 20th I am taking her to see Matilda at the Kennedy Center with her cousin and aunt.
I say that because we watched bits and pieces of the movie, Scrooge The Musical, on Wednesday night. Listen, I am a huge fan of It’s a Wonderful Life, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, The Grinch, The Berenstain Bears Christmas, Emmit Otter’s Jugband Christmas, and all of the other seasonal favorites. And there have been some heavy hitting actors, George C. Scott among them, who have played the character of Ebenezer Scrooge in various versions of A Christmas Carol; but there is something about that 1970 musical rendition of Charles Dickens’ 1843 story that truly ignites the Christmas spirit in me.
(And yes, it’s more than just the fact that in the movie, Jacob Marley is played superbly by none other than Sir Alec Guinness…the original Obi Wan Kenobi.)
In the movie, during the visit from the ghost of Christmas present, Scrooge is afforded a window into the current lives of those people he interacts with: his employee, Bob Cratchet; his nephew; and others. Scrooge happens to peer into a scene where he has recently died…and the town is celebrating rather wildly as they throw his casket onto the back of a horse drawn carriage. And they all start to sing a song called “Thank you very much.” Meaning: thank you very much for dropping dead. Several of the verses:
Thank you very much!
Thank you very much!
That’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for me
It sounds a bit bizarre
But things the way they are
I feel as if another life’s begun for me
And if I had a cannon I would fire it
To add a sort of celebration touch
But since I left my cannon at home
I’ll simply have to say
Thank you very, very, very much!
That’s how glad they are to see him dead.
Now, the rather jovial ghost keeps giving Scrooge drinks that make him all happy and loopy (aka. the milk of human kindness), and Scrooge thinks that they are actually celebrating his life and all that he has done for them. Don’t take my word for it…see it here. At the end of the song, the jovial ghost of Christmas present gives way to the very ominous and boney ghost of Christmas future (go to the 3:45 mark for that treat).
You know the rest. Scrooge sees the error of his ways, Tiny Tim is going to die unless Scrooge funds his healthcare, and all of a sudden, Scrooge is back in his room and it’s Christmas morning.
But at the end of the musical, they reprise “Thank you very much.” (Start it at the 1:45 mark.)
Except this time, Scrooge is in a Santa costume and he’s the one leading the town in song and dance — a man reformed and transformed (perhaps his heart grew three sizes that day?).
He rips up all of the town’s debts. He went from singing a song called “I Hate People” at the beginning of the film to singing “I like life.”
And since we’re on the cusp of holiday dinners, happy hours, festive gatherings of friends and family, it’s worth it to take a few minutes and remember:
…If life were a woman she would be my wife.
Because I like life.
I like life
Life likes me
Life and I fairly fully agree
Life is fine
Life is good
‘Specially mine, which is just as it should be
I like pouring the wine and why not?
Life’s a pleasure that I deny not
Where there’s music and laughter
Happiness is rife.
Because I like life.