Michael Keenan & Greg Wood in A Dickens Christmas Carol. Photo: Little Colonel

A Dickens Christmas Carol: A Traveling Travesty in Two Tumultuous Acts

By Mark Landon Smith      
Directed by Martha Frazier

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

A Christmas Carol is the most sturdy of holiday stories, frequently produced and often imitated, at this point we know it in our bones.

The version now onstage at Little Colonel Playhouse is presented in the guise of a hapless low-budget English traveling theatre troupe like those found in Great Britain when Charles Dickens. The sets are flat and nearly cardboard, the wigs are bad, and at least one actor has all of their lines written down on various props. The ensemble is a mix of thespian portentousness and amateurish ineptitude, full of infighting and obliviousness. A tumultuous travesty indeed.

But these are the Victorian actors that I’m talking about, with names such as Sir Selsdon Piddock, Dame Rowena Middleton, and Mr. Elyot Crummels. Sir Piddock is a solid enough Ebenezer Scrooge in his formal, Master Thespian manner, but the rest are not exactly the cream of British theatre.

Mark Landon Smith’s script is a Victorian Noises Off except not nearly as good as that genius farce. And there is a significant risk when portraying “bad theatre” that it cannot disguise genuinely poor playing. This kind of door-slamming slapstick comedy requires a certain daring and crack timing in the delivery and there were too many instances where actors hesitated after a gag instead of keeping a snappier pace. 

Still, they make it work, if just barely. There are so many jokes and enough of them land to keep it a brisk entertainment. Two land, one doesn’t and that’s why you keep things rolling along at a pace that allows the audience to forget the clinkers.

For s deliberately shoddy set, it is certainly lit well by Eddie Wilkins, and suitably costumed by Jane Burketts & Shannon Watts. Make costumes for this period are difficult, but the women look just about right.

Director Martha Frazier commits fully to the conceit, with the program only listing the Victorian actors’ names and her own perfectly pitched curtain speech as director Lavinia P. Buttons is a delightful beginning.

The running time helps the whole thing go down easily, and the premise is original enough to almost guarantee that you have never seen A Christmas Carol like this one before. It’s an interesting question to ask people what their foundation version of the story might be. For me it was the 1951 film starring Alistair Sim and Mr. Magoo (seriously), and the 1983 George C. Scott version gets spoken of quite a bit, but The Muppet Christmas Carol seems to ne what new generations first encountered as children.

However it happens, we all come to know it, and it remains the iconic Christmas story, as responsible for forging the veneration of the holiday and ancestor to every great Christmas story to follow. It can survive any manner of parody and it still holds that place in our memory.

Featuring Grayson Beverly, Jane Burke, Sierra Conner, Ivy Frazier, Cynthia Imbry, Michael Keenan,Taura Schmitz, & Greg Wood

A Dickens Christmas Carol: A Traveling Travesty in Two Tumultuous Acts

December  2, 3, 8, 9, & 10 @ 7:30 pm
December 4, & 11 @ 2:00 pm

Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mt Mercy Drive 
Pewee Valley, KY 40056

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.