Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’

Six dollars cheaper than last year (how many shows can make that boast?), "A Christmas Carol" returns to the cavernous Paramount for its second annual seasonal outing, a formidable challenger to Radio City Music Hall's "Christmas Spectacular."

Six dollars cheaper than last year (how many shows can make that boast?), “A Christmas Carol” returns to the cavernous Paramount for its second annual seasonal outing, a formidable challenger to Radio City Music Hall’s “Christmas Spectacular.” Back are Tony Walton’s panoramic London sets, spectacularly lit by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, and William Ivey Long’s marvelous period costumes (for better or worse, the periods include Victorian England, ’50s cheesecake and ’60s black light). Also back, of course, is Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ attractive score; several of the songs — “Link by Link,” “God Bless Us, Everyone” and “A Place Called Home” — are keepers.

This year’s cast of millions includes Terrence Mann doing his dark thing (nobody does it better) as Scrooge and Ben Vereen doing his Wow! Am I having fun! thing as the Spirit of Christmas Present. One key child in the cast can’t sing, but you couldn’t pay me to name names.

An extremely satisfying mix of Broadway razzle-dazzle and total tackiness, “A Christmas Carol” looks like a keeper, too. It’s at its best in moments of high irreverence, which means when choreographer Susan Stroman sends clanking spirits in chains (“Link by Link”), tap-dancing fruit (“Abundance and Charity”) and twirling presents (“Christmas Together”) Rockette-ing around the vastness of London. Dickens might have raised an eyebrow, but Tiny Tim would have laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

A Christmas Carol

Madison Square Garden/The Paramount; 5,127 seats; $49 top
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