According to Michael Patrick Hearn's The Annotated Christmas Carol, at least eight different stage versions of the book appeared on London stages in early 1844. Three of them opened on the same day, February 5, 1844. Charles Zachary Barnett wrote a two-act adaptation of the story called A Christmas Carol: Or, the Miser's Warning! which opened at the Surrey Theatre, while Charles Webb adapted the story for the Strand Theatre, and a rival production penned by Edward Stirling opened at the Adelphi.
Dicks' Standard Plays and later by Samuel French.
The Stirling version was the only adaptation of the tale Dickens himself sanctioned. Entitled A Christmas Carol; or, Past, Present, and Future, it starred the legendary O. Smith (the stage name of Richard John Smith) as Scrooge. Smith's name later became nearly synonymous with melodrama, so the acting was likely not to have been overly subtle. Edward Fitzball, who penned such famous melodramas as Jonathan Bradford, supplied the lyrics for "The Song of Christmas" which was sung during the Ghost of Christmas Present episode.
In spite of giving the production at the Adelphi his imprimatur, Dickens did not have high hopes for it. He later admitted in a letter that "O Smith was drearily better than I expected." Not high praise, but the show was a success, and Stirling's adaptation opened at the Park Theatre in New York City on Christmas Day later that same year.
Today, A Christmas Carol has become an annual theatre tradition, and my own adaptation was recently staged by the Passage Theater Company in Trenton, New Jersey. The fact is, Dickens just wrote a ripping good yarn, and it works brilliantly on stage.