Arts & Theater

Theater review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ turns out clever and caustic at B Street

Greg Alexander as Ebeneezer Scrooge, shown here with Amy Kelly, is the main focus of the B Street Family Series production “A Christmas Carol.”
Greg Alexander as Ebeneezer Scrooge, shown here with Amy Kelly, is the main focus of the B Street Family Series production “A Christmas Carol.” Courtesy of B Street Theatre

Do you think Ebenezer Scrooge could be as tired as the rest of us with the annual telling of his redemption tale? Could “A Christmas Carol” become a self-aware, door-slamming farce?

These questions, which you may not have asked – and others that you certainly didn’t – are answered anyway in a sly new version of Charles Dickens’ perennial “ghost story” now at the B Street Theatre Family Series. Buck Busfield has adapted the classic into a clever and often caustic send-up of the original but one that still brings around the heart and soul Dickens first injected into the story.

One question you’ll likely ask after seeing the production is “Why haven’t I seen Greg Alexander as Scrooge before?” Alexander has always been an expert comic actor, and here he delivers a sarcastic, grumpy, resolutely over-it Scrooge. Alexander possesses a natural, welcoming ease, so it’s a treat when Scrooge ultimately reverses course, finding his way to the Christmas spirit, and doesn’t sell himself out in the process.

“A Christmas Carol” has always been Scrooge’s show, of course, except for a few scene-stealing, tear-jerking lines from Tiny Tim. Busfield and Alexander’s Scrooge will have none of that, even though it doesn’t look good for John Lamb’s Tiny Tim for much of the play. This Scrooge spends as much time talking directly to the audience as with the other characters on stage. He’s mostly comically complaining about having to go through the same old show with the same old beats year after year. You have your chained-up ghost of Jacob Marley, the visitations of the other Ghosts of Christmas, Fezziwig’s party, the Cratchits’ sad dinner, yada yada yada. Well, Scrooge is fed up, and he’s not going through with it this year.

Scrooge tries avoiding the basic plot points of his own story, but the characters carry him through a clever alternate version, which lands in the same places. A busy ensemble (Lamb, Amy Kelly, Megan Wicks and Nestor Campos Jr.) portray all the other familiar characters, and each has a signature moment as well as a collective bravura set piece of costume-changing, door-slamming comic gold.

Dave Pierini briskly directs the two-act production, keeping the tone light and Alexander at the forefront. This Family Series production plays well for adults.

Marcus Crowder: 916-321-1120, @marcuscrowder

A Christmas Carol

What: Buck Busfield adapts the Charles Dickens classic for the B Street Family Series with Greg Alexander as Scrooge. Amy Kelly, John Lamb, Megan Wicks and Nestor Campos Jr. are the energetic ensemble.

When: 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays through Sunday, Dec. 27.

Where: B Street Theatre Family Series Stage, 2711 B St., Sacramento

Cost: $15-$29

Time: 85 minutes, including one intermission

Information: 916-443-5300, bstreettheatre.org

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