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Scrooge, snow, a sharp-dressed man

It’s Sunday night. Benny has been more or less in bed all day with the beginnings of a cold; Mom’s feeling puny down at the farmhouse, and I will simply say this: Irritable Bowel Syndrome is as unpleasant as its name implies.

I have miles to go before I sleep – miles of copy I need to turn out for the Lifestyles section, that is – and all I really want to do is curl up with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head (that couldn’t make me feel any queasier than I already feel, could it?)

O.K., today hasn’t been so great, but last night was wonderful, a grand kickoff to the Christmas season. Benny and I got all gussied up (my spouse, in black mock turtleneck, slacks and gray jacket, was a treat for this lady to behold) and went to Montgomery to see &uot;A Christmas Carol&uot; at ASF.

We’d bought the tickets weeks ago, soon after they announced the 2004-2005 season. Sniffles and sore throats, et al., were not going to stop us from our date with the world’s most famous reformed miser.

I absolutely love Dickens’ classic Christmas tale (Benny enjoys it, too, though I don’t think he is quite as maniacal about it as yours truly).

It’s another one of those books I can quote passages from, though Saturday night I made an effort to simply mouth the words along with Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, his missus and all the other memorable characters, both human and spirit.

The characters were only a few yards away from us – oh, I do love the intimacy of ASF’s Festival Stage! – so I happily drank in the marvelous facial expressions of actor Phillip Pleasants in the lead role.

He may not be Alistair Sim, my personal favorite in the role (run, don’t walk to pick up the 1951 movie version on tape or DVD; you won’t be disappointed) but Pleasants was very good indeed.

They all were. ‘Tiny Tim’ only had about two lines, but when you’re an angelic-looking seven-year-old, blue-eyed towhead in a leg brace, you’ve won the audience over from their first glimpse of you. (A collective &uot;aahh&uot; could be heard when the tot uttered his immortal line, &uot;God bless us, everyone.&uot;)

This was our second time seeing the ASF staging of the Dickens’ classic. We first saw it five years ago. In the years that have passed in between performances, Benny and I have both lost jobs, lost parents, lost pets (tantamount to losing a family member for us), felt let down by some of those we trusted; at times we’ve lost confidence in ourselves.

Maybe that’s why the scene showing Christmas at the Cratchits struck a particularly strong chord with me this year. When Bob talked wistfully of the lost dreams of youth and the harsh realities of adulthood, yet remained hopeful for the future, I felt Scrooge’s gentle, undervalued clerk was speaking to me, and for me.

And when Fred, Scrooge’s lively and lovable nephew, refused to allow his uncle’s mildewed attitude spoil his own natural joy and generosity – &uot;I shall still wish you a Merry Christmas, Uncle, even if you do not believe in it&uot; – I was reminded once more we have the power to make the world better – or worse – simply by the attitude we carry out the door with us every day.

I don’t care whether you’re a Baptist or a Buddhist, a Methodist or Muslim – that’s a valuable lesson to recall.

When the &uot;snow’ began to fall at the end of the show – falling on us, on the cast – we all, young and old alike, laughed with delight at the magic of the moment. Reviving the kid inside you at Christmas – that’s another great lesson.

My weekend was not all bad, not by a long shot. God bless y’all, everyone!

Angie Long is the lifestyles reporter for the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 132 or via email at angie.long@greenvilleadvocate.com.