A Christmas Carol

Rated 4.0

Certainly A Christmas Carol qualifies as a “beloved holiday classic,” but it’s now more than a century old and suffering from frequent staging. What better way to freshen things up than by writing a new version? That’s precisely what Buck Busfield and David Pierini have done, and the result is a great B Street Theatre Family Series holiday show.

In Victorian London on Christmas Eve, an irascible Charles Dickens is behind on his deadline for a Christmas story for the newspaper and in danger of being forced to repay his advance. As for “Christmas spirit,” the Dickens of this play has none at all; he’s become the very soul of Scrooge, even though the character hasn’t been written yet. Dickens pokes fun at a fellow customer in the grogshop, Uriah Heep, because of his strange name; is condescending to the man-hating shop owner, Miss Havisham; and fires Caleb Plummer, his artist, for drawing Christmas pictures full of happy people.

But when he’s knocked on the noggin during a rousing tussle with pickpocket Fagin, Dickens is visited by three ghosts who teach him the meaning of Christmas. From that point on, the basic outline of the story is a familiar one, although Busfield and Pierini play fast and loose with the facts of Dickens’ biography and add all manner of funny stuff to liven things up.

As Dickens, Greg Alexander is appropriately humbuggy and self-centered. Jamie Jones’ portrayal of Miss Havisham carries a few hints of Bride of Frankenstein, especially in the looks she bestows on men when they dare to speak to her. All the players (except Alexander, who’s onstage throughout almost the entire show) take on multiple roles, with Galen Howard’s mix of arrogance and self-pity making him a stand out as young Dickens.

What’s more, the rewrite hasn’t reduced the meat of the matter at all; the trimmed-down version of the tale takes on a behind-the-scenes feel and moves fast enough to keep all but the most antsy of children enthralled.