Since Mrs. Desperado and I have been going to the Dickens this Christmas season, we jumped at the opportunity to a local theater production of A Christmas Carol even if it was a humorous adaptation. We’ve attended many productions at the Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria and though the quality has varied, we’ve enjoyed them all to some degree. Though the establishment is a dinner theater that caters largely to the Sun City crowd, they’ve ventured out of comfortable territory on occasion, including doing the nude scenes in Hair. So in short, we didn’t know what to expect.
A Broadway Christmas Carol was performed in a new space off to the side of the main theater. The “stage” is the middle area of the floor surrounded by tables with a balcony above. Therefore the actors have the additional challenge of playing to an audience on all sides.
The show begins with Dickens’ famous opening lines (“Marley was dead…”) and the piano player (also the director) Kurtis Overby kicking off the overture. Overby plays his heart out the entire time, being the sole accompaniment for the three other cast members, and occasionally joins in himself. Jamie Parnell is Scrooge while Stephen Hohendorf and Liz Fallon play all the male and female parts. There are over thirty songs in the show, all recycled from famous Broadway productions with the words appropriately changed. For example, Scrooge changes the words of “We’re in the Money” to “I’m in the Money.” Godspell’s “Turn Back O Man” becomes “Turn Back Old Man,” and so forth. Some of these musical numbers are just short snippets but all are done for humorous effect.
Not all the jokes are super-funny but we found much of the silliness to be hilarious. It says something about our sense of humor that the two of us laughed harder than anyone else in the place, sometimes missing lines because of it. In one of the opening scenes, when Scrooge’s nephew Fred pranced out dressed like a character from Cats, we lost it, almost inhaling our drinks. Another great bit was when the ghost children Ignorance and Want (hand puppets) started singing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from Annie. The three ghosts are interpreted pretty creatively: Christmas Past is an old Jewish man, Christmas Present(s) is a Valley girl, and Christmas Yet to Come is the Phantom of the Opera. My favorite part was when Scrooge donned a wig and robe to become the Phantom’s love interest Christine while being pushed around on a wheeled garment rack and rowing the air with an oar. We laughed until our sides hurt – though admittedly, most of the audience didn’t seem to be quite as amused.
A Broadway Christmas Carol includes all essential elements of the classic Dickens tale, all modified hilariously. Fallon and Hohendorf do an impressive job switching characters, often in mid-scene. Parnell’s Scrooge is a great straight man to their silliness. The singing was great and Overby was tireless at the piano. All those who love Dickens but also have a sense of humor would greatly enjoy it. Five out of five gears.
Speaking of hilarity, see our three-part You-tube series “A Christmas Carol” Movies – The Good, The Bad, and the Cringeworthy”