Anyone who knows comedy should have heard of The Second City comedy group. A sketch comedy group, it was SNL before SNL existed. So when The Second City endeavors to bring a warm holiday classic like Dickens' A Christmas Carol to the stage, you know it's going to be fun. Some Christmas shows are full of warmth and make you shed a nostalgic tear brought on from remembering old traditions. This show, The Second City's A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens, takes all those traditions and turns them flat on their ear. Instead, you'll shed tears from raucous laughter.
This company takes the enduring tale, A Christmas Carol, and breaks it down, interspersing the scenes from that play with several sketch scenes, or as the show itself proclaims, "It's a hybrid of satiric scenes mixed with a classic Holiday favorite." Some of these scenes are taken from other Holiday classics-- The Island of Misfit Toys, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and some are original sketches. Some of these scenes have a kind of tongue-in-cheek social commentary, such as when two Bethlehem wise men scold the one who brought a chest of gold to a "manger family". "You can't give them money. You have to help them help themselves." The sketches were perfectly performed, with spot-on timing.
The Second City's A Christmas Carol was wonderful in every respect. From costumes to the set to lighting and sound effects to the actors and writing of the show itself, it's flawless. It is a hilariously twisted version of Dickens' original tale. Because this story is so well-known, it's easier to make fun of. This company's Ebenezer Scrooge can now say, "Bah-- Wait for it. Hum-- Here it comes-- Bug," and get a laugh. He also gets to pull out the quip, "Before meeting Tiny Tim, I never knew weak legs were fatal." And soon, a fresh version of the ghosts-- Christmas past from the 1980s, Christmas present, half-naked and hung-over and the ghost of the future, really from the future, join in. One-liners abound in this show. The writing has been crafted meticulously. However, Second City wouldn't be the Second City without improvisation. So, of course, they worked in some lines from the audience into the show. But most of the show sticks to the script.
Scrooge, played by Ron West, is wonderfully acerbic and deliciously malicious and instead of "humbug", throws out quite a few angry swears and insults, such as, "I'm not going to your stupid-ass party full of stupid asses. I hate you!" And his timing makes it all the more funny.
Possibly the most well-known of this show, due to their prolific television roles, Larry Joe Campbell (According to Jim) and Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons) played various roles, from Jacob Marley and Nephew Fred to George Bailey (Castellaneta) and the Ghost of Christmas Present, charity fund-raiser and Peppermint Patty (Campbell.) It was a treat to see these television actors onstage and even more entertaining to see them use their inherent comedic talents. (Castellaneta does a spot-on imitation of George Bailey and Campbell's belly plays a large part in his role as Ghost of Christmas Present.)
In fact, the whole cast was quick and funny. The ladies of the cast, Amanda Blake Davis and Jean Villepique, who took on every female part plus the role of Tiny Tim were talented, as were Frank Caeti (Ghost of Christmas Past) and Brian Stepanek (Bob Cratchit). The whole cast works so well together as a team. The costume and set changes were quick and perfect. Everything just flowed seamlessly. I would recommend this show to anyone who likes to be happy and laugh and doesn't mind a bit of off-color humor. This show blew my mind. Enjoy it and have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
The Second City's A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens is being performed at the Kirk Douglas Theatre until December 30 with shows Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 6:00 and 9:30, Sunday at 3:00 and 6:30. Buy tickets online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org or by calling 213-628-2772.
The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232. Paid parking is available across the street or a couple blocks away at City Hall. (Please check posted signs for availability.)