Pictured: Gary Neal Johnson, Logan Black, and Sam Cordes. Photo by Cory Weaver.
It would not be the Christmas season without at least one theater offering up its version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and here in Kansas City, it’s the KCRep that has taken up that gauntlet for 38 seasons.
Last season the KCRep discarded an excellent adaptation by Barbara Field in favor of a new adaption by former Artistic Director Eric Rosen. It was far from grand, in fact, it left this reviewer bewildered and thoroughly disappointed. KCRep has made it clear they are in it to win it with this one, and so here we are again.
Thankfully, changes have been made making this year’s production appear less pretentious and laborious. Gone are the top-of-show “Mr. Rosen’s” rules, and under the keenly aware eye of director Marissa Wolf, there’s an attempt to return to the heart of the story, Scrooge’s salvation.
This year’s cast also seems to understand the importance of getting back to basics. While Rosen’s script has stripped Ebeneezer Scrooge of his basic necessities, reducing some of his most important moments to afterthoughts, it is because of the incomparable Gary Neal Johnson that Scrooge is saved, and thus, so are we. In less seasoned hands, this Scrooge would be lost, but Johnson is no stranger to this world, and he bursts through all the noise keeping Ebeneezer front and center.
It’s a beautifully cast ensemble, and all work together to lift this piece up. Logan Black’s Bob Cratchit is gentle and simple. He is a man who truly loves his family, who loves his son so deeply, that when his heart breaks your heart breaks right alongside him. As Mrs. Cratchit, Nicole Marie Green gives a grounded performance that unites the family and welcomes us into their home. Bree Elrod’s Ghost of Christmas Past is lively and full of spirit, Sam Cordes is a delightful Fred whose best work comes when he is sparring with his Uncle Scrooge, and Shanna Jones brings a breath of fresh air to the Ghost of Christmas Present.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL will always have a place in the holiday canon, and if this is to be the adaptation Kansas City is to embrace, then it is my sincere hope that future productions will build upon the work of this year and continue to strive for more depth and substance and less of the unnecessary fluff.