×

A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens

The kidded narrative is interspersed with yule-based sketches, offering Santa an easy accounting task: The stuff involving Ebenezer Scrooge (a crisp, droll Ron West), Tiny Tim (lovely Jean Villepique) et al is a treat, while the extra material mostly merits lumps of coal.

With:
With: Frank Caeti, Larry Joe Campbell, Dan Castellaneta, Amanda Blake Davis, Brian Stepanek, Jean Villepique, Ron West.

The Second City’s holiday stocking hanging at the Kirk Douglas is a partly improvised, mostly scripted takeoff on “A Christmas Carol” designed, as the title has it, to “Twist Your Dickens.” The kidded narrative is interspersed with yule-based sketches, offering Santa an easy accounting task: The stuff involving Ebenezer Scrooge (a crisp, droll Ron West), Tiny Tim (lovely Jean Villepique) et al is a treat, while the extra material mostly merits lumps of coal.

Spoofing “A Christmas Carol” is never going to seem totally fresh, let’s face it. But TV vets Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort get a lot of mileage drawing parallels between Scrooge and today’s Wall Street wolves, and quibbling with Dickens’ narrative choplogic: Why, they wonder, does Jacob Marley predict Scrooge will be visited by three spirits, when he himself is clearly the first of four? And come to think of it, why is Nephew Fred laughing all the time? Dan Castellaneta shines in both roles, also popping in periodically as George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

In the tastiest sequence by far, the Ghost of Christmas Past, a genial stoner dude courtesy Frank Caeti, shows Scrooge one household on the morning of Dec. 25 in three different decades shouted out by the crowd. (“Let me capture this moment!” says mom to the kids. In the 1960s she takes a Polaroid; in the 1920s she just stares at them.) Throughout the evening the troupe neatly integrates the audience’s written submissions of “the meanest thing you ever did,” which on opening night included “spanking my dog” and “yelling at my Spanish teacher.” True, those aren’t so mean, but these pros know how to twist even the lamest volunteered idea into gales of amusement.

Would that the same Christmas miracle were visited on the other holiday-themed comedy. The first sketch, in which a woman complains her beau purchased an expensive antique ring instead of something from Kay or Zales, is dismal and goes on forever. So much for leading with one’s A material. Two Victorian lawyers’ infomercial, and a meeting of the Dickens Orphans Union, fare little better.

Larry Joe Campbell picks things up when he swings into a recording studio as Rat Pack-style crooner Gino Santini, heedlessly mangling the lyrics of seasonal favorites, but that comes late in act two. Early in act two, a celebrity guest (actor Tom Everett Scott on the first night) drops by, a nice gimmick. Tech credits are all pro.

Popular on Variety

A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens

Kirk Douglas Theater, Los Angeles; 317 seats; $57 top

Production: A Center Theater Group presentation of a play in two acts by Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort. Directed by Marc Warzecha.

Creative: Sets, Tom Buderwitz; costumes, Leah Piehl; lighting, Brandon Baruch; sound, Cricket S. Myers; vocal music director-composer, David O. Opened, reviewed Nov. 29, 2012. Runs through Dec. 30. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: With: Frank Caeti, Larry Joe Campbell, Dan Castellaneta, Amanda Blake Davis, Brian Stepanek, Jean Villepique, Ron West.

More Legit

  • Sue Wagner John Johnson

    Tony-Winning Producers Sue Wagner and John Johnson Announce New Venture, Wagner Johnson Productions

    Sue Wagner and John Johnson, seven-time Tony award-winning producers, announced Wednesday that they have embarked on a new theatrical business venture, Wagner Johnson Productions. Under the name, they will produce and general manage a wide scope of theater productions. One of Wagner Johnson Productions’ current projects is a musical rendition of “Almost Famous,” which will [...]

  • Sam Rockwell and Laurence Fishburne

    Sam Rockwell, Laurence Fishburne Starring in Broadway Revival of 'American Buffalo'

    Laurence Fishburne and Sam Rockwell will star in an upcoming Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.” The show marks Rockwell’s first appearance on the Great White Way since his 2014 performance in the revival of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.” The five-year absence saw him pick up an Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, [...]

  • Secret Derren Brown review

    Broadway Review: 'Derren Brown: Secret'

    Audiences love to be fooled, whether it’s with clever plotting with a twist, the arrival of an unexpected character or even a charming flimflam man with a British accent. The latter is Derren Brown, and he’s entertaining audiences for a limited run at the Cort Theatre, where he is playing head-scratching mind games and other [...]

  • Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica ParkerNew York

    Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker to Reunite on Broadway for 'Plaza Suite'

    Real-life couple Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are hitting the Broadway stage again for a reboot of the late Neil Simon’s 1968 play “Plaza Suite.” The staging will mark the Broadway directorial debut of Tony award-winner John Benjamin Hickey. Set in New York City’s Plaza Hotel in Suite 719, “Plaza Suite” is comprised of [...]

  • Derren Brown

    Listen: Derren Brown Spills His Broadway 'Secret'

    Derren Brown has spent a lot of his career performing magic shows on theater stages — but he’ll be the first to tell you that magic usually doesn’t make for great theater. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “If you’re a magician of any sort, you can make stuff happen with a click of your [...]

  • A Very Expensive Poison review

    London Theater Review: 'A Very Expensive Poison'

    Vladimir Putin owes his power to the stage. The president’s closest advisor trained as a theatre director before applying his art to politics, and ran Russia like a staged reality, spinning so many fictions that truth itself began to blur. By scrambling the story and sowing confusion, Putin could exert absolute control. The long-awaited latest [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content