At the end of “A Christmas Carol,” we are told that Scrooge has changed his miserly ways, and we are left to assume that Bob Cratchit will forgive him for all the years of mistreatment. But what if it’s not that easy? “A Christmas Carol Part II,” the Road Show-style lump of silliness going on at Salt Lake’s Off Broadway Theatre through Jan. 2, explores those very issues.
Written by Bob Bedore, who also plays Bob Cratchit, “Part II” takes place a year after the story we’re familiar with. Scrooge (Eric Jensen) has indeed changed — but not necessarily for the better. Instead of being stingy, he now gives money to everyone who asks for it, including swindlers and con-artists. All you have to do is mention ghosts and chains, and Scrooge will be frightened into giving you whatever you want. He’s gullible and naive now, and everyone’s taking advantage of him.
Taking the most advantage of him is good ol’ Cratchit. Seems he’s still pretty bitter about all the meanness he got from Scrooge all that time, and he’s not about to forgive and forget. With the aid of his now-gargantuan Tiny Tim (Robert Bogue), he plans to embezzle clients’ money, make it look like Scrooge did it, and then take over the business.
Scrooge gets another visit from Jacob Marley (Cody K. Carlson) — watch for the amusing joke about Jacob’s face appearing in the office door’s window — and then from the three ghosts from before. Each of them tries to help Scrooge learn that giving out of fear isn’t the way to go — he needs to give out of love.
It’s a good message, and one that has not been beaten to death already. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way of writing the script, Bedore forgot to put very many jokes in. The last show at this theater, “Dracula vs. the Wolfman,” which Bedore and Jensen wrote, was hysterical, packed full of pop culture references, amusing characters and great sight gags. “Christmas Carol,” though, seems weak and tired. Bob’s elaborate lies to Scrooge become very tedious, and with only one or two exceptions, the songs — all familiar Christmas carols with new lyrics — don’t really even TRY to be funny. They come across as slow and cumbersome, slowing down the pace of the show dramatically and adding nothing to it.
There are certainly some funny bits, particularly when things go wrong and the actors have to improvise (many are also members of the Quick Wits improv troupe), but overall, the show plods along wearily. Bogue makes the most of his Tiny Tim character, playing him as a slow-minded over-grown half-wit, with very amusing results. Also, Jensen plays Scrooge very well, and he has proved his comic abilities in this past. Here, you can just see him itching to bust out and DO something, but unfortunately the strained jokes in the script give him little opportunity.
Add to that the two jokes stolen directly from TV — one, about “the exact moment his heart breaks,” from “The Simpsons”; another, about “he’s got my nose,” from “Cheers” — and you’ve got a show that, while long on good intentions and great potential, comes up short on actual entertainment and originality.
After "Dracula vs. the Wolfman" was so good, we were quite disappointed to find this show so ungood. I think I cried a little, like a small boy whose balloon has been popped.
Stealing lines has always irked me. And really, if you're going to steal lines from "Cheers" or "The Simpsons," you should make sure I'm not in the audience, because I'll catch you in the act. For the record, the "Simpsons" line was stolen from the episode in which little Ralph Wiggum is in love with Lisa Simpson, and she rejects him while the camera is on them in the audience of a Krusty the Klown show. Watching the videotape later, Bart slows it down and shows how if you look closely, you can see the precise moment when Ralph's heart breaks. That exact same scenario is used in "Christmas Carol Part II," only it's when the ghost of Christmas Past is showing Scrooge a scene from his younger days, when the beautiful Belle broke his heart.
The "Cheers" line is from the episode in which Frasier's wife Lilith has their baby. At the hospital, Sam is admiring the baby closely when he says, "He's got my nose." Frasier says, "Don't be ridiculous, Sam." And Sam says, "No, I mean he's really GOT MY NOSE," meaning the baby has grabbed it with his little fingers. At the Off Broadway Theatre, it's almost word-for-word the same dialogue, when Scrooge is looking at Belle's little baby.
Please, don't steal jokes. It cheapens us all.
Another thing you shouldn't try to do is park in downtown Salt Lake City, like where this theater is. You might as well forget about it and come in by foot, like the pioneers did.