In the preface to “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens wrote that he endeavored with his “ghostly little book” not to put his “readers out of humor,” but rather “haunt their houses pleasantly.” One hundred seventy-four years later, generations of readers and theatergoers are still spellbound by Dickens’ “ghost of an idea.” Footlights Theatre keeps his message of social change shining brightly, chasing away the holiday bah humbugs with an adaptation by executive artistic director Michael J. Tobin that’s heartfelt, spirited and loads of fun.

The theater is offering a fully staged production, with 125 costumes and old-fashioned special effects that have audience members leaping from their chairs one minute and laughing with good humor the next. Thirteen cast members perform the classic tale, accented by narration that captures Dickens’s descriptive storytelling.

Set in 19th-century England, “A Christmas Carol” is the miraculous story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s reformation from cold-hearted moneylender to a steward of the Christmas spirit. Haunted by three ghosts, his eyes are opened to the magic of the season.

Tobin stars as Scrooge, capturing the essence of the “covetous old sinner” with a booming gruff voice and prominent cane-assisted limp. Adding dimension, he allows the audience to glimpse Scrooge’s underlying vulnerability, foreshadowing his post-ghost transformation, which Tobin delivers with joy-inducing giddiness that is made all the more entertaining paired with Gretchen G. Wood’s dumbfounded charwoman.

Michael J. Tobin as Scrooge in the Footlights Theatre production of “A Christmas Carol.” Photo courtesy of Footlights Theatre

Footlights’ “A Christmas Carol” highlights Scrooge’s shut-up heart and miserly ways with moving scenes that are often left out of productions. The local butcher (David Murray) begs Scrooge not to take his cart in payment and a woman (Rebecca Cole) clutching her freezing baby pleads with Scrooge not to put her husband in debtor’s prison.

As usual, Scrooge’s treatment of his clerk, Bob Cratchit, played with great feeling by Charlie Cole, is reprehensible, making Scrooge’s transformation all the more dramatic.

The rendition also elicits plenty of contagious laughter as Scrooge embarks on his ghostly journey through the past, present and future. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig (Rick Kusturin and Wood) are a joyous treat as they host a Christmas Eve party where Scrooge apprenticed as a young man, and the businessmen (Kusturin and Cole) are over the top as they callously weigh the benefits of attending a funeral in Scrooge’s future.

With the exception of Tobin and Talia Spiegel, who is beyond adorable as Tiny Tim, each cast member plays multiple characters. Cheryl Reynolds looks stunning in white as the Ghost of Christmas Past and is all heart as Mrs. Cratchit. Andrew Hanscom shows diversity as Scrooge’s boisterous nephew Fred and Scrooge’s money-obsessed younger self. And Paul J. Bell inhabits a variety of characters, including a delightfully ghastly version of Scrooge’s ghostly former partner, Jacob Marley.

Ava Cass, Anja Machado and Isabella Rose Coulombe complete the wonderful cast, bringing to life such characters as Fan, Peter Cratchit and Martha Cratchit.

This production of “A Christmas Carol” is an uplifting holiday treasure that joyfully raises spirits and reminds us “there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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Twitter: @ahboyle