“Make it new,” Ezra Pound, the dean of modernist poets, once directed. That’s not a small challenge when it comes to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, an all-too-familiar holiday diversion and moneymaker for theaters nationwide.

For its first live production since the pandemic’s start, People’s Light has embraced that challenge in fine style. Its world-premiere musical adaptation, by the theater’s producing director, Zak Berkman, benefits from Broadway-caliber voices and a winning lead performance by Philadelphia veteran Ian Merrill Peakes as Ebenezer Scrooge. (David Ingram assumes the role Dec. 24.)

Scrooge’s name has become synonymous with miserliness, cruelty, and “Bah, humbug” holiday skepticism. But Berkman, in program notes, says he sees Scrooge less as the epitome of greed and more as a man ravaged by loss and fearful of opening his heart. He subtitles his adaptation “A Ghost Story of Grief & Generosity.”

Grief, is of course, one of the leitmotifs of our current COVID-19 era, whether over economic hardship, social isolation, or the illness or death of loved ones. So, it’s not too awkward a leap, thematically speaking, for Berkman to have set his Christmas Carol within a contemporary frame. Scrooge still inhabits mid-19th century England, with its workhouses, boarding schools, and high mortality rates. But a “Kind Chorus” alludes directly to the hardships of the pandemic and collectively narrates the story. And the perils of sickness, poverty, eviction — and disdain for the common good — haunt both eras.

Berkman, as adapter and composer, has interspersed the Dickensian narrative with a mash-up of traditional and transformed Christmas carols and folk songs — sometimes setting new lyrics to familiar music, sometimes pairing recognizable motifs with original compositions.

Played by an onstage band backed by chorus members, and arranged by Mitch Chakour, the music slows the tale’s unfurling (counting a long intermission, the show clocks in at about two hours, 15 minutes). But it also adds texture and signals the possibility of redemption. And it is intermittently thrilling, especially when Zonya Love (Celie in Broadway’s The Color Purple) solos.

Marla J. Jurglanis’s costumes are appropriately eclectic, blending the contemporary with the historical and the fanciful (for the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and To Come). The action takes place on a light-bedecked but mostly bare stage (the set design is by Paige Hathaway, lighting by Dawn Chiang). Berkman and the director, David Bradley, draw on techniques of story theater, relying on gesture and imagination rather than elaborate sets or props.

Peakes gives us a Scrooge who’s never completely hateful — and whose pleasure in his own transformation is enacted with exuberant, comic glee. He’s backed by a better-than-adequate multiracial cast, whose standouts, besides Love, include Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as a particularly dignified Bob Cratchit and Nathan M. Ramsey as both Scrooge’s well-meaning nephew, Fred, and Young Man Scrooge.

A few quibbles: The pace flags at times, the ending seems drawn out, and not every actor attains Peakes’ impeccable diction. And while it may be both thematically apt and fiscally responsible to append a fund-raising plea for People’s Light, the pitch steps on the warm emotional glow that this Christmas Carol generates.

A Christmas Carol is presented by People’s Light on the Leonard C. Haas Stage, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, through Jan. 2. Recommended for ages 8 and up. Tickets: $45, with various discounts available. Information: 610-644-3500 or tickets@peopleslight.org. Proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test, plus ID and masks, required. Distanced seating. A filmed version is available to stream from Dec. 24-Jan. 6 for $25, and streaming access is included for theater ticket-holders.