The 1979 Broadway musical Christmas Is Comin’ Uptown is one of the versions of A Christmas Carol that often get pigeon-holed as “African American versions” but, along with John Grin’s Christmas and Ms Scrooge this tuneful adaptation transcends race and celebrates the universality of the Carol’s message. The musical continues to tour the USA to this very day and a television broadcast of a few scenes and songs from the work aired when I was a teenager and was already obsessed with variations of the story.
Gregory Hines played Scrooge in the original Broadway cast. The Scrooge in this adaptation was an inner- city slumlord about to foreclose on an apartment house, a church and a youth center. He gets the usual visits from his deceased partner and the three Christmas Ghosts and is a changed man. The urban setting is creatively employed without being stereotypical or like the musical is supposed to be A Blaxploitation Christmas. Unfortunately, like most versions of the Carol it expands the part of Scrooge’s lost love out of all proportion to her significance in the Dickens novel. Her name is changed to Mary, too, but that’s a minor quibble. The funniest part of this musical adapation is how, on the morning after, Scrooge is forced to resort to a Jewish deli and a Chinese restaurant to get food to send to the Cratchit family since all the other establishments are closed for the holiday.
The songs are very lively and some even have, for want of a better term, a “Gospel choir” feel to them. For a comparison think of the rollicking song Clean Up Your Act from An All Dogs Christmas Carol. In addition to the title tune memorable songs from this production include Somebody’s Got To Be The Heavy, Get Your Act Together, Have I Finally Found My Heart and Nobody Really Do. A real show- stopper is Get Down, Brother, Get Down, a number performed by a female Spirit and her backup singers, jointly called Christmas Present and The Presents (think Diana Ross and The Supremes).
FOR MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE: http://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/
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