‘Christmas Carol’ updated with urban setting, diverse cast in Las Vegas — VIDEO

As usual, it’s a Dickens of a holiday season in Southern Nevada, with myriad ways to get into the Yuletide spirit in the coming weeks.

But Nevada Conservatory Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” — which opens Dec. 1 at UNLV — looks a bit different this year.

Ebenezer Scrooge may be as greedy and misanthropic as ever, but he’s far removed from the 19th-century London “Christmas Carol” that author Charles Dickens knew so well.

Instead, he’s in a contemporary urban setting, dealing with a diverse cast of characters — some of whom are speaking Spanish.

“It’s probably one of the most culturally diverse casts” featured at NCT in director Christopher Edwards’ three years leading UNLV’s professional theater training program, he says. Edwards left UNLV earlier this year to take the reins of Boston’s Actors’ Shakespeare Project, but he’s back in Las Vegas to direct NCT’s latest “Christmas Carol” production.

The contemporary setting and diverse cast help to bring the lessons of Dickens’ timeless tale into the present day, in Edwards’ view.

“Sometimes, when you do a period piece that deals with current issues, the period tends to give that picture a mask and a separation,” he comments. Without the Victorian-era setting, “it sits these issues in the laps of audiences.”

In other words, “it could be anytime, anyplace, anywhere,” Edwards notes. “What I’ve been saying is, it’s then and now. It’s in the future and now.”

Veteran actor Wesley Mann — a familiar face thanks to roles in everything from “Back to the Future II” to “That’s So Raven” — portrays Scrooge in what he describes as “a more direct, visceral version of the story,” he says. “It gets to the heart of the matter.”

Matters of the heart loom large in many local holiday presentations, from music and dance to celebrations of light.

To help you sort out your holiday schedule, see our quick guide to the highlights of the season here.

Contact Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

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