Tuesday, June 18, 2024

‘Scrooge: A Christmas Carol’ Podcast Stars Sean Astin and John Rhys-Davis Which Reimagines the Classic Holiday Tale | Audio-Listen

Sean Astin and John Rhys-Davis
‘Scrooge: A Christmas Carol’ Podcast stars Sean Astin and John Rhys-Davis Photo Courtesy: Hope Media Group

*’Tis the season when the air becomes cold and crisp, welcoming the time when American households deck out their abodes with colorful lighting, assembling holiday evergreen trees, and wreaths to adorn both living rooms and front doors. Families indulge and imbibe on homemade eggnog garnished with nutmeg and cinnamon, which overflows the punchbowl because Christmas is here. In addition to the festive decorations and culinary delights offered during the holidays, many entertaining films and music will take over the airwaves, reinforcing the spirit of “good tidings of great joy.” Hope Media Group and Compassion International in partnership with KSBJ and WayFM present a new adaption of a quintessential yuletide tale, a podcast titled “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

Creator, show-runner, director, producer Mark Ramsey, and screenwriter P.G. Cuschieri remained faithful to the source material but also added “fresh story elements” with beloved actors Sean Astin (“Lord of the Rings“) and John Rhys-Davies (“Indiana Jones”) that “will highlight inspirational family themes that will encourage listeners for many Christmases yet-to-come.”

“Everyone knows the story of Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol.’ We have seen the movies and stage shows and read the book. But there has never been an all-star, full-cast dramatic audio adaptation of the story produced in the US in podcast form – until now. This is not just a re-telling of a familiar tale. This original adaptation by Paul Cuschieri adds new elements which bring to life more of the story’s central themes: The importance of hope, the gift of forgiveness, compassion for others in need, and the miracle of redemption. Families have never heard the story told this way before by a cast of familiar names and voices,” said Ramsey.

This four-episode adaptation of “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens illuminates the beloved characters of the story many have grown to adore through a star-studded dramatic audio adaptation in podcast form, featuring original music and songs from Kerri Roberts, inspired by the story.

 

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“Ebenezer Scrooge, a self-obsessed miserable miser of all things un-merry and un-bright, is everything Christmas isn’t. After he is visited by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, Scrooge transforms into a new man and embodies all the best parts of Christmas. Through this journey of transformation, listeners will encounter themes of joy, mercy, hope, and more. This new re-telling of the holiday classic will entertain, inspire, and remind you that even the hardest of hearts can find redemption. The story of Scrooge is a known commodity and has been a well-loved story for nearly 180 Christmases past,” according to the press release describing the series.

Within the first 24 hours of its debut on November 16, “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol” podcast has landed in the number one position for both Drama and Fiction and continues to move up the charts.

Mark Ramsey and Joe Paulo, President and CEO of Hope Media Group, spoke with EURweb to discuss how the podcast will help to spread holiday cheer and why their rendition will inspire listeners during the hustle and bustle of the 2023 holiday season.

EURweb: Can you explain why you decided to go in the podcast mode to tell this particular story?

Joe Paulo: This story is a classic that so many people know. But there was an opportunity – Mark sent this in a powerful and fresh way, and it turned into something even better than we could have imagined. But that’s why we wanted to present it. We know that podcasts are so popular; you look at the statistics: two-thirds of Americans have shared their stories in a fresh way that has never been done before, and by the way, Mark and his team did a phenomenal job.

Mark Ramsey: We’ve seen every year, it seems, where there’s a new version of A Christmas Carol on some screen someplace. But if you think about what’s available in terms of audio, which is portable, personal, and intimate. It tends to be an audiobook; it tends to be a cold narrative of the story. Maybe if it’s got actors in it, they’re voice actors. Here, we’ve got something that is a full cast, fully immersive, dramatized, state-of-the-art sound design, faces and names of actors you know, a version adapted specifically for audio, and especially with the idea that we would bring faith forward that we would emphasize those components of the story, which have always been part of it, but make them clearer and more compelling and more potent. That was a combination which was irresistible. In an age when people are starting to listen to podcasts, increasingly today, the fact that this had never been done startled me. I thought, why [don’t we] do it? Joe and the folks at Hope Media Group and Compassion International were gracious enough to say yes.

EURweb: So we’re going back to the days of people gathering around their radio. Now, we’re gathering around our podcasts to listen to stories; it’s coming back full circle.

Ramsey: Our community may not be the people in the living room, watching the radio or the people listening to the podcast. Wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, they’re all focused on the same content at the same time. So it’s kind of a community of tens or hundreds of thousands of people, all of which have this thing in common called “Scrooge A Christmas Carol,” and that’s a really exciting progression. I think of how audio has changed and evolved over the years and how people’s attention has also evolved.

EURweb: As much as we’ve all seen “A Christmas Carol,” which is a general holiday fan-favorite because people enjoy watching Scrooge confront the ghosts and deal with his misery while learning how to love but what makes it different listening to the podcast as opposed to watching it on the big or small screen?

Ramsey: Well, first of all, it’s the difference between listening and watching, which is profound. Listening is a personal experience that gives you the ability to exercise your imagination, which is particularly great for families and kids; this is an experience a lot of kids, in particular, hadn’t had before because they grew up watching and interacting and punching buttons, switching videos on TikTok or whatever. Here, you have an opportunity to slow down. Get immersive, engage, listen, and appreciate an impactful story designed to be told this way, and that’s another important factor. We didn’t just do an audiobook of the novella; this is an adaptation, specifically written, enhanced, and elaborated to leverage the power of audio.

Paulo: The other thing I would mention is that people familiar with the story will recognize in other versions of it echoes of really important themes that we have brought to the forefront and thrown a spotlight on it. Part of our partnership with Compassion International made it obvious to focus on those components of compassion and forgiveness and the beautiful story of redemption, a common story for all of us, for all of [humanity]. So, those things have been brought front and center; we even added some discussion questions and study guides so that families want to have conversations with their kids or be reflective. So we’ve added those to Scroogepodcast.com, a great place to go and learn more about the cast, as Mark mentioned. But that was our goal and intent to make this something fresh that’s never been done before.

Ramsey: The caliber of the talent involved in this is profoundly different from what people are accustomed to for audio experiences. Sean Astin [plays] Ebenezer Scrooge. Sean is a well-known face and voice from “Lord of the Rings” from “Stranger Things.” John Rhys-Davies is the narrator; he was in “Indiana Jones,” including the most recent one. Clive Standen has recently had roles in “Vikings” and Apple TV’s “The Morning Show.” Bethany Joy Lenz from “One Tree Hill,” and the cast goes on from there. These people were attracted to it being told this way and jumped at the chance to be in an original experience like this; as much as it’s familiar, it’s also extremely fresh.

EURweb: Can you recall the first time you saw “A Christmas Carol?” How did the story of Scrooge impact you?

Paulo: I remember when I first encountered this story; I was a kid, and I saw the George C. Scott version and probably feared [it] more than anything, right? Because some of those presentations, especially for young ones, can be fearful. But this “Scrooge: Christmas Carol” podcast doesn’t elicit feelings of fear in people; it doesn’t elicit feelings of fear in kids. It’s an immersive experience that causes reflection and enjoyment. It’s a wonderful immersive experience, so that’s what was then for me, and this is an entirely different story.

Ramsey: My first experience was with the 1951 British version, which a lot of people consider the best movie version because they showed it for free on public television for years. I remember the impact it had on me was that I looked at how this man changed on the basis of spirit; there’s a metaphor there, right? Spirit changed him all in one night, a profound message for a kid. The fact of him giving a raise to his housekeeper in that version was the most exciting; it brought tears to my eyes. It was such a sweet, wonderful thing for a man who had been so evil to her for so long, and those moments, those small things, are what we remember as kids and adults. Hopefully, some moments in “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol” will create that kind of a moment for listeners today.

For more information on “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol,” visit ScroogePodcast.com

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