David Rainey as Scrooge in Alley Theatre's A Christmas Carol.

We knew the holidays were going to look different this year, but, somehow, we didn’t expect this. The Alley Theatre has cancelled its in-person production of A Christmas Carol, the company announced this morning.   

But no need to drown your sorrows in eggnog for too long. The Alley will instead be presenting its annual holiday season favorite as a free virtual performance. That’s right. You’ll still be able to enjoy this Dickensian tale of love and redemption from the comfort of your own couch. “Hearing Dickens’ story of A Christmas Carol is such an important part of how we celebrate,” Artistic Director Rob Melrose said in a statement. “I’m very excited about the innovative way we’ve figured out to bring this heartwarming story of hope and redemption to each and every Houstonian free of charge this holiday season.”

A cornerstone of the Alley’s season, A Christmas Carol has drawn thousands of theatergoers to the Theater District for more than 25 years. This year’s production, which was meant to kick off the 2020-2021 season when it ran from November 20 through December 27, would have marked the company’s official return to the Alley stage following the cancelation of its spring shows amid the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, it will emphasize how Houstonians are finding new ways to celebrate the season, even in uncertain times.

The Alley’s digital production, which will run from December 4–27, won’t be the phantasmagorically spirit-centric adaptation by Michael Wilson that fans have come to expect. Instead, the company is staging Doris Baizley’s pared-down retelling, which relays the classic tale of Scrooge, Jacob Marley, and Tiny Tim through the eyes of a rag-tag, but well-meaning acting troupe using a story-within-a-story structure. That’s not the only change either. Each actor is being filmed from their own home—a socially distanced adjustment that Melrose said makes this year’s show “the most unique and intimate production of A Christmas Carol that we have ever done.” 

The Alley Theatre's Deck the Trees, 2019.

But wait, there’s more. The Alley will also be continuing its annual Deck the Trees event, transforming the George R. Brown Convention Center lobby into its usual wintery wonderland from November 20 through January 3. According to the press release, this change of venue (it’s usually held in the theatre’s lobby) will allow visitors to remain outside and socially distance while enjoying the display through the convention center’s windows.

Sure, the Alley’s holiday offerings will be decidedly different from those of recent holiday seasons past, but the company’s still bringing us its annual stocking-stuffed dose of seasonal cheer. If that’s not a holiday miracle, we don’t know what is.

A Christmas Carol. Dec 4–27 (registration opens Oct 28). Free. Online. More info and registration at alleytheatre.org.