Ebony Scrooge considers reverence for the past a weakness.
She’s successful in business and politics, and she did it all on her own. She doesn’t have time to think about where she came from, much less where she’s going.
She has a restaurant to run, and she struts through its front doors every day in her Prada shoes.
But, as her deceased business partner will tell her later, she may lose it all if she continues in the same direction, and new Pradas will be the least of her problems in “It’s Ebony Scrooge.”
UpStage Theatre will open this modernized version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” on Saturday, Dec. 5. The story was adapted by UpStage founder and artistic director Ava Brewster Turner, who was looking for something reflective yet uplifting for the holiday season.
“A Christmas Carol” fit the bill, but Turner wanted a different take on it.
“I couldn’t find anything, so I decided to write my own,” Turner says. “Here we have the story everyone knows, but the setting is today. And Ebenezer is Ebony, a young woman. She has different problems, but she’s in the same situation as Ebenezer.”
And Turner made sure to keep within the spirit of Dickens by changing only one other character’s name.
“Tiny Tim is a girl named Jenny,” she says. “Otherwise, these are the same characters everyone’s familiar with.”
Ebony is played by DeAnna Moncrieff, whose personality is quite the opposite of this Scrooge.
“Ebony is selfish, and she doesn’t care about people,” Moncrieff says. “I’m not like that at all. I care about other people. But it’s fun playing someone who is opposite from me, because you get to see the world through their eyes.”
Sometimes that perception can be vicious. Ebony not only runs a restaurant but sits on the city council. She has a jaded view of the world, and she sees charities as a nuisance.
“When the churches come around and ask her to donate money for the needy for Christmas, she can’t be bothered,” Turner says. “She doesn’t even want to give her assistant, Roberta Cratchett, the day off for Christmas.”
That’s when her late business partner Marley, imprisoned by his chain of sins, visits her.
“He reminds her that they did things in business that weren’t right,” Turner says. “And if she keeps going in that direction, she’s going to end up just like him.”
Will Merrill wakes Ebony out of her delusion as the Ghost of Christmas Past. He’s also pulling double duty on stage as Roberta Cratchett’s husband, John.
“It’s been interesting playing two characters who are so different,” Merrill says. “I can relate to playing John, because like him, I’m a dad. He’s a good guy, and I can relate to his concern for Jenny.”
But the Ghost of Christmas Past must enter the story with an authoritative force.
“Ebony doesn’t believe any of this at first, and it’s the Ghost of Christmas Past’s job to use his power to wake her up,” he says. “He has to show her he means business.”
But his tough love approach leads to a happy ending. This is Dickens, after all, which means there is redemption to be found in the end.