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Song and dance with Charles Dickens

Scrooge! The Musical is a charming, uneven show recommended for families

Can Scrooge learn the reason for the season through the power of song? I mean, songs and ghosts? Photo credit: Dennis K Photography

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A Christmas Carol is one of the most frequently retold stories in all of modern literature, receiving endless adaptations for film, TV, comic books, the stage, and practically any other medium you can imagine. It's easy to see why a story about a rich curmudgeon who lives on a steady supply of narcissism and misanthropy would remain resonant, closing in on 200 years after Charles Dickens wrote it -- people like Ebenezer Scrooge will never really go away. Plus, the simplicity of its structure (rich jerk learns the error of his ways after being visited by three ghosts) lends itself to any degree of postmodern take imaginable. Turning it into a musical is basically a no-brainer.

Scrooge! The Musical is a 1992 stage adaptation on a 1970 musical film, making good use of Dickens' typically huge cast of characters to create a brassy, rollicking soundtrack for Scrooge's journey of redemption. For Tacoma Little Theatre's production, directed by Micheal O'Hara, Andrew Fry is perfectly cast as Scrooge. Fry easily accesses the sense of playfulness mixed with cynicism that he so deftly displayed in fellow TLT shows The Pillowman and Jesus Christ Superstar. His Scrooge is not just a bastard, but a gleeful one, condescendingly telling poorer folks to pull themselves up by their bootstraps -- like Scrooge's faithful employee Bob Cratchit (Jeremy Lynch, exuding decency), whom Scrooge reluctantly gives the day off for Christmas, with the caveat that Cratchit's expected to come in early the next day to make up for it.

On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the spirit of his former business partner, Jacob Marley (a hilariously droll Joseph Woodland), who warns him to be nicer and get to lovin' Christmas if he doesn't want to end up miserable in the afterlife. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future (Kathy Kluska, Chris Serface, and Alan Plaster, respectively) arrive throughout the night to show Scrooge how much better everyone's lives would be if he could learn to love anyone but himself. Along the way, Scrooge! is a mostly breezy affair, but it does wring some poignancy out of Scrooge's vision of himself when he was a younger, more open-hearted man. Kluska and Serface are outstanding as the ghosts, generally having fun throwing Scrooge's dismissive attitude back in his face.

My only issue with the show is, unfortunately, the music. Much of it -- with some exceptions, like the rousing "Thank You Very Much" and the melancholy "You-You" -- is just too formless for my liking. I could sense moments when the actors weren't quite sure when to come in, which lent a bit of awkward slack to what would ideally be tight, energetic numbers. With the story being so simple and familiar, you really need strong songs to bolster the proceedings. Still, this is a very big, enthusiastic ensemble, and their passion helps to patch up some of the rougher moments. In addition to the fine performances from the leads already mentioned, Tristin Nelson and Kenya Adams are magnetic standouts in smaller roles.

Faults and all, Scrooge! The Musical does have a warmth and a sense of holiday spirit about it, and I recommend it for families getting youngsters into theater.

SCROOGE! THE MUSICAL, 7:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Dec. 30, also 2 p.m., Dec. 22; 7:30 p.m., Dec. 26, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 North I St., Tacoma, $22-$27, 253.272.2281,

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