Fresh Take on a Christmas Classic
Last year, when playwright James Kopp suggested to The Pear Theatre management that they put on A Christmas Carol, he was met with groans. “Everyone does that show,” they said and suddenly, Kopp started noticing flyers for Dickens’ classic ghost story everywhere. He was then inspired to write The Millionth Production of A Christmas Carol.
The Millionth Production of A Christmas Carol is a look at the holidays from the other side of the curtain. The show is about a struggling black box theater company attempting to do a tech run of their holiday show, A Christmas Carol. The cast sits through technical difficulties and waits for their director to arrive while the overworked Artistic Director, Fisher (Jennifer Sorkin-Kopp), tries to keep the theater open.
During its best moments, the show is a hilarious riff on Dickens’ classic tale, but sometimes it feels like a different plot is being forced down the audience’s throats. There’s a good show in there, but the script needs to be workshopped and polished some more.
Overall, it’s a pretty good show, particularly in the first act. There are moments that are laugh-out-loud funny. The comedic scenes between Jim-1 (Jim Johnson) and Jim-2 (Ronald Feichtmeir) are well written, directed and performed. There’s a hilarious exchange about whether or not it is possible to be a “hot” Scrooge and another scene where the actors put the lines into their own words that is so funny, my ribs hurt afterward from laughing so hard.
The music choices throughout are also really strong. The use of the song “Sixteen Tons,” sung by Kopp himself, is particularly good, utilizing the line “I owe my soul to the company store” to spine-chilling effect in the second act.
The actors are strong and the concept is interesting, but the script has a problem with subtlety—both too much and too little.
Backstories for the characters are given out so bluntly that they practically hit you over the head. Fisher has what is essentially a monologue early on about being orphaned at an young age. It’s given out too freely, both to the audience and to the other characters as a plot device rather than words driven by genuine emotion.
However, there are other aspects of the show that are too subtle for the casual viewer to notice. There are versions of the ghosts of past, present and future that come into Fisher’s life that I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t overheard Kopp talking about it after the show. There were also some really subtle choices in the second act that I did pick up on but are easy to miss. Because other plot points were stated so bluntly early in the show, the audience is given permission to check out and expect the rest of the show to be equally obvious. The subtle moments would have been alright and made for an interesting show if the expectation of bluntness hadn’t been set up earlier.
There are also a lot of scenes that seem not to fit together well, as though Kopp wasn’t sure how to stitch his ideas together. The parallels to A Christmas Carol’s plot points feel forced and are not made to be the emotional heart of the show. Kopp found a fun play about a theatre company’s feelings about putting on A Christmas Carol. Unfortunately, he tried to shoehorn in the actual plot of the book as well, and that is where the show lost its momentum.
The Millionth Production of A Christmas Carol is a show with potential. I think with more time for rewrites and workshopping, the show could be a real Christmas classic. The script is heavy handed in places, but it’s also sweet and it makes you want to support more small black-box theaters.
The Millionth Production of A Christmas Carol is playing now through December 17th 2017 at the Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida Street, Mountain View. The show runs about two hours with one intermission. Tickets cost from $15 to $35. This production contains adult language and is not recommended for children.
Photos Courtesy of The Pear Theatre.