A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004)
Musical Mayhem Makes Ebenezer Merry
From classic period dramas to contemporary remakes, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" has been the basis of Christmas and non Christmas movies so many times that you wonder why anyone would want to try and breathe life into such a frequently used story. Yet they do and from CGI fuelled animations to all singing and dancing Muppets there is always someone trying to give the tale of Scrooge and his 3 spirit visitors a new angle. Now as ideas go turning "A Christmas Carol" into a full on musical sounds crackers, oh there are elements to it which lend themselves to big song and dance scenes as was the case of the 1970 version called "Scrooge", but to make it all a musical sounds an incredibly cheesy idea. Yet ironically "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" is surprisingly entertaining; yes it is at times rather cheesy with the feeling of being more pantomime than musical but it strangely grows on you and the good ends up outweighing the bad.
Christmas is coming and Ebenezer Scrooge (Kelsey Grammer - Mr. St. Nick) is in his usual bad mood, declaring "Bah Humbug" to all the frivolity and festive cheer. But then on Christmas Eve he gets a series of visitors, his deceased business partner Jacob Marley (Jason Alexander) and then the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Jane Krakowski - The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas), present (Jesse L. Martin) and Future (Geraldine Chaplin - To Walk with Lions) show him the error of his ways. But it is up to Scrooge to learn from what these visitors show him before it's too late.
Now to be frank I've watched so many versions of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" that I get confused as to what is original and what isn't. For the most "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" stays faithful to the classic version, it's set in the 19th century in a Victorian looking England with street sellers and performers littering the cobbled street and so on. But rather than just staying faithful there are some embellishments and changes to stop it feeling like just another retelling.
One of the most noticeable embellishments is that Scrooge meets 3 people prior to his visitations, a streetlamp lighter, a ticket seller and a blind beggar woman and it is these 3 people who then become the ghostly visitors. It is in fact a nice idea with the woman who lights the streetlamps being the Ghost of Christmas Past, the ticket seller the Ghost of Christmas Present and the blind beggar woman Ghost of Christmas Future it allows for a slight touch of humour as Scrooge is shocked to see these people become his guides. There are also other minor embellishments such as Scrooge's one time love Belle being changed to Emily and his back history being expanded on slightly but it works because these minor additions and changes stops it from being too straight forward.
Of course another thing is that of course this is a musical version of "A Christmas Carol" and it is most definitely a full on musical which the song and dance scenes often out weighing the dialogue. Now here is the thing, all of the song and dance scenes are wonderfully choreographed and are eye catching big productions and the songs whilst occasionally cheesy all are rather catchy and well sung and dubbed. But it does feel out of balance with musical scenes thrown in when maybe they weren't needed such as when the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to some sort of stage show and throws him into the middle of a dance routine. It is an amusing scene but feels like padding, thrown into fill some time and make you smile rather than to really tell the story. And as such there are times when it feels more pantomime like than musical.
But despite this criticism of being out of balance it is all very entertaining. The various big productions work thanks to the wonderful Victorian sets and the embellishments such as when Marley returns he brings with him more chained up money men for a song and dance scene is surprisingly enjoyable. And the slight comedy which threads itself through various scenes achieves the smiles intended. It sort of feels wrong to say it but "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" ends up being more entertaining than some of the big screen versions of Dickens classic tale.
Aside from the wonderful sets and the musical scenes a big reason why it is entertaining is down to Kelsey Grammer who seems to be having fun playing the miserly Ebenezer. Now this is not a nuanced acting performance but one which is all about entertaining, so the exaggerated stoop which he gives Scrooge early on is just comical as is his nastiness to those around him. And of course when Scrooge has had his epiphany the over top change of character is just as entertaining as Grammer skips down the street and kicks his heels. But it works in the context of this fun musical as does Jane Krakowski who makes for the sexiest Ghost of Christmas Past I have seen. In fact all the ghosts are spot on with Jesse L. Martin giving a fun performance as the Ghost of Christmas Present and Geraldine Chaplin using her dancing skills to make the Ghost of Christmas Future this mysterious spectral visitor.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" is as times as cheesy as it sounds it is also very entertaining. It delivers the classic tale but adds some nice embellishments and of course plenty of musical numbers which occasionally become a bit too much. But it is fun, it will amuse whilst also uplift and thanks to some nice performances from the likes of Kelsey Grammer it will stay with you for a while unlike some other adaptations of "A Christmas Carol".
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