A DIVA’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (2000) – Balladeer’s Blog’s Ninth Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues with a look at this Vanessa Williams venture. Due to the nature of this adaptation of the Dickens classic it is often categorized as one of the “African-American versions.” Among other such Carols I have reviewed are Christmas is Comin’ Uptown with Gregory Hines and John Grin’s Christmas starring Robert Guillaume.
The forever-underrated Vanessa Williams is brilliant in this very good film that mixes comedy, music and drama together far better than many stage versions manage to do. Williams stars as Ebony Scrooge, a pop singer who puts on a kind and pleasant public face but who is a … well, a diva behind the scenes.
Ebony is even more nasty than usual as she pushes her entourage beyond all their limits to get ready for an alleged “charity” show for the homeless on Christmas. Ebony’s demeanor makes it clear that she is really doing it all just for public image reasons and to feed her own ego (Bono – cough – Bono) as she wallows in the plaudits sent her way.
Actor Brian McNamara proves he can WIN the war to stand out from other Bob Cratchits (See what I did there?). He gets an unfair advantage by the way that his Bob does double-duty as Ebony’s much-abused manager AND as her lost love from years earlier in their relationship.
She cruelly dumped Cratchit on her way up the music industry ladder but his genuine fondness for her and faith in her talent prompted him to stay with Scrooge in a professional capacity long after their personal relationship fell by the wayside. (Significantly in the Christmas Yet To Come segment Bob is the only person from Ebony’s past who has a kind word to say about her.)
In his romantic life Bob moved on to marry and have children, one of whom, of course, is a very sickly Tiny Tim. Ebony Scrooge pays her people so little he can’t afford the kind of care Tim needs to save his life.
Rozonda Thomas’ Marley character is named Marli Jacob, formerly a member with Ebony in the singing trio called
Destiny’s Child Desire. Ebony abandoned Marli when she was having drug problems then coldly exploited her late partner’s death to fuel her rise to solo stardom. You can insert your own Courtney Love joke here.
Per Marli’s warning, Scrooge is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. After witnessing her sad past with an abusive father and other heartaches Ebony is shown her breakup with Bob and sees that Terry, the third member of Desire, became destitute after Scrooge sued her to stop her from using the Desire name.
Next Ebony meets the musically inclined Ghost of Christmas Present, played by John Taylor of Duran Duran fame. Among the visions that this Ghost shows her is a Christmas party held by her niece Olivia (Stephanie Biddle). (Olivia? Not Frederica or something?) As you would expect, Olivia still loves her Aunt Ebony for her late mother’s sake, etc.
A nice touch of the Christmas Present portion is the ghost showing Scrooge the genuine suffering of the homeless people she was obliviously exploiting with her crass, artificial “charity concert.” This Carol substitutes haunting figures called Ignorance and Greed for Ignorance and Want from the Dickens story.
Christmas Yet to Come is imaginatively handled by way of a mock Behind the Music episode. Ebony watches her own downfall and learns how her accountant Ernie and others parasitically drained her of her money. Nobody really misses or mourns the dead diva Ebony and nobody shows up at her funeral except her niece Olivia.
Scrooge’s morning-after conversion is pretty heart-warming and Williams really impressed me with the range she showed in this telefilm. In addition to saving everyone in her immediate orbit, Ebony rescues Terry from poverty and she joins Scrooge in a great rendition of Sleigh Ride. A unique addition to this version of the Carol is the way Marli is shown having earned angel’s wings for her intercession on Ebony’s behalf.
If I was forced to pick one lone modern-day adaptation of Dickens’ tale to put in a time capsule it would definitely be A Diva’s Christmas Carol. +++
FOR DOZENS MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/
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