Gary Neal Johnson as Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” (Don Ipock)
With more than 40 years behind the tradition, Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s A Christmas Carol has become a full-blown local seasonal institution.
Admittedly, this year is my first time making it out to this institution, so I can’t guarantee from firsthand experience how the show compares to previous years. But based on past photos, reviews, word of mouth, and recurring cast lists, this seems to be a mostly straightforward remounting of the show audiences have spent decades coming to know (and, yes, love). Those looking for an inventive reimagining of the classic will not find that here but what is offered is a solid production with a stellar cast, great music, and high production values, likely to delight first-time audiences, young viewers, as well as those simply looking for the comfort that comes with repeat viewings of something they enjoy.
Once again utilizing Geoff Elliott’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic, director Jason Chanos keeps the play moving along at a swift clip. The show makes great use of its space, tapping every aisle, trap door, and John Ezell’s nearly constantly rotating (and plainly gorgeous) set to keep the movement going. The lively pacing is a boon when mounting a show audiences are so familiar with, but it also makes for a nice second-act payoff when the Ghost of Christmas Present (Matthew Rapport, reprising the role) is allowed to luxuriate in a long, leisurely stroll through the audience. Rapport spends many minutes vamping and sprinkling attendees with a seemingly endless supply of glitter. It’s a fun fourth-wall break in the middle of a traditionally more buttoned-up show, but it’s not out of place, as it genuinely elicits some real Christmas-spirit glee.
What KC Rep has created for audiences both new and decades-returning is a beautiful tradition. The show has the feel of a classic but is not tired, even though some members of the company have been a part of this show for multiple decades. The band is joyous. The technical elements are on point. The cast, led by Gary Neal Johnson’s Scrooge, is energetic and fully invested. This is a solid mounting of a long-standing tradition, primed to be well-appreciated by longtime fans open to a bit of Christmas nostalgia and fully embraced by new young audiences.
“A Christmas Carol” runs at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre (Spencer Theatre, 4949 Cherry St) through December 24. For more information, visit kcrep.org.