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Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol 

The new production of "A Christmas Carol" at the Kodak Theater benefits from a strong cast but never quite coheres in a fully satisfying way.

With:
Toy Store Patron/Bess - Stacie Adkins Mrs. Smythe/Belle - Gail Bennett Dick Wilkens/Mr. Smythe/ Young Man - Christopher Carothers Marley/Old Joe - Barry Cutler Christmas Present - John Goodman Gentleman No. 2/Belle's Husband - Robert Harlan Greene Mrs. Fezziwig/ Bess' Mother - Victoria Hoffman Daughter No. 1/Belinda - Jarrah Korba Tiny Tim - Nicky Korba Mrs. Cratchit - Jane Leeves Scrooge - Christopher Lloyd Daughter No. 3/Abernathy/ Want - Isabella Murad Fred - Thomas MacGreevy Shopkeeper/Ebenezer/ Young Man - Robert Moffat Innkeeper/ Christmas Past - Jane Noseworthy Fiddler/Phantom - John Pisa Caroler/Peter - Anthony Skillman Fan/Older Belle - Melissa Strom Gentleman No. 1/Fezziwig/ Undertaker - David Stenstrom Bob Cratchit - Time Winters

The new production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Kodak Theater benefits from a strong cast but never quite coheres in a fully satisfying way. Those coming to see Christopher Lloyd, John Goodman and Jane Leeves will not be disappointed, as all three actors acquit themselves splendidly. For the high ticket price, however, this ought to be a better show. As it is, this production is beset with technical problems and poor directorial decisions.

The most blatant misstep in the show is the use of a recorded narration (the late, and here uncredited, John Gielgud) to bracket the various scenes. This presents multiple problems, the first of which is that the narration, clearly recorded for another project, doesn’t entirely match up with what is onstage. Secondly, the audio quality of the recording isn’t up to par with the rest of the show, and sometimes Gielgud’s words are muddy or inaudible. Finally, sometimes the recorded narration interrupted the live cast members, and often the laughs following a bit of business would drown out the narration entirely.

If the director felt so strongly about including this particular recorded narration, why not make sure it was clearly audible and used properly, and why not give it due credit in the program? Cue the Ghost of Credits Past, chains clanking.

Lloyd plays Scrooge with a grim gusto, getting great comedic value from the role’s harshness in the first act, but he is believably sunny and repentant in the play’s conclusion as well. Goodman steals the show as Christmas Present, getting chuckles and applause from amusingly over-the-top ghost howls before he even walks onstage. He gets the biggest laugh of the show when walking out into the audience to show Scrooge the surplus population, but he also hits the somber notes, quietly pointing out the possible future tragedy of Tiny Tim’s empty crutch and chair.

Leeves gets less to do as Mrs. Cratchit, but she is completely believable and effective in the role. Time Winters is impressive as the decent Bob Cratchit, particularly in a scene where he mourns his lost son, but Jane Noseworthy underplays the role of Christmas Past to the point where the character seems a pleasant nonentity.

Director Kevin Von Feldt brings some good ideas to the show, from a moment in which Scrooge attempts to climb back into his bed to find that it’s grown too tall to a chilling scene in which Marley is driven back into the afterlife by little revenants in black.

Unfortunately, other ideas aren’t so good. An excess of stage smoke so blanketed the front rows of the theater in an important cemetery scene that the audience could clearly see nothing, fanning the air around them in frustration. And Scrooge thanked each member of the cast individually after a couple of curtain calls and had them exit through the audience, so the actors (including Lloyd with Tiny Tim on his shoulders) had to walk through the already-departing crowd.

Von Feldt’s blocking seems unsure, with actors milling about the vast Kodak stage as if not certain where to go, and the pacing is sometimes clunky, with one notably long scene change lasting several minutes as the audience stared at darkness.

Jaroslav Gebr’s scenic backdrops are lush and evocative.

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Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol 

Kodak Theater; 3,400 seats; $79.50 top

Production: A Von Feldt Entertainment in association with Equity Partners Filmvest and HandPicked Films presentation of a play in two acts by Charles Dickens. Adapted and directed by Kevin Von Feldt.

Creative: Sets, Jeff Hile; costumes and choreography, Nancy Dutmer; lighting, David Neville; sound, Phillip Allen; production stage manager, Jill Gold. Opened Dec. 22, 2008. Reviewed Dec. 23. Runs through Jan. 4, 2009. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Toy Store Patron/Bess - Stacie Adkins Mrs. Smythe/Belle - Gail Bennett Dick Wilkens/Mr. Smythe/ Young Man - Christopher Carothers Marley/Old Joe - Barry Cutler Christmas Present - John Goodman Gentleman No. 2/Belle's Husband - Robert Harlan Greene Mrs. Fezziwig/ Bess' Mother - Victoria Hoffman Daughter No. 1/Belinda - Jarrah Korba Tiny Tim - Nicky Korba Mrs. Cratchit - Jane Leeves Scrooge - Christopher Lloyd Daughter No. 3/Abernathy/ Want - Isabella Murad Fred - Thomas MacGreevy Shopkeeper/Ebenezer/ Young Man - Robert Moffat Innkeeper/ Christmas Past - Jane Noseworthy Fiddler/Phantom - John Pisa Caroler/Peter - Anthony Skillman Fan/Older Belle - Melissa Strom Gentleman No. 1/Fezziwig/ Undertaker - David Stenstrom Bob Cratchit - Time Winters

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