I have been to many shows at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre (KCRep), but it was evident upon arriving to pick up my ticket that its annual production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is an entirely different beast.
To begin with, everyone was dressed in their finest (I was not) and just about everyone there had seen the show at least five, 10 or 25 times (I had not; I’m not even 25).
Prior to the show, KCRep’s new artistic director, Stuart Carden, discovered that one couple in the audience had been a total of 39 times to see the play—every single year since its very first performance.
If that’s not evidence enough that “A Christmas Carol” is up there with the Plaza lights and ice skating at Crown Center in Kansas City’s repertoire of holiday traditions, then I don’t know what is.
I have never left a KCRep performance feeling underwhelmed or let down by the spectacle they put on in terms of set design, costuming, lighting and other scenic effects, but “A Christmas Carol” was absolutely the highest scale that I have seen at that theater, or quite possibly any other. They have taken it to, ‘I’m glad I’m not the one who has to clean that up’ heights, with the show prominently featuring ‘snowfall’ on stage.
The silhouetted London cityscape focused around a towering St Paul’s Cathedral was meticulously and beautifully crafted and added an extra layer to the atmosphere of the performance.
I believe it was the first KCRep show I’ve seen to make use of a revolving stage when switching between the scenic locations of the story, and it was implemented very well. I can imagine it’s not the easiest thing to pull off, but the look of the stage felt continuously fresh and ever-changing. The play was such a pleasure to simply look at and get lost in all of the nuances and details (before being snapped back by a thunderclap signaling the arrival of another ghost).
The production, adapted by Geoff Elliot, closely follows the story of Dickens’ classic novel. Even if your first point of reference into “A Christmas Carol” is ‘Scrooge McDuck,’ it won’t take you long to immerse yourself in what is going on.
My one issue is not with the show itself, but something I feel compelled to touch on if I am going to follow my intentions of leaving an honest review.
The pricing of the tickets was something I was slightly taken aback by. I am not by any means attempting to devalue what theater does; in fact, quite the opposite. I believe theater is something that should be widely accessible to our community, both locally and here on campus, especially a show of such a high caliber.
Full disclosure, I was graciously offered a complimentary ticket for my review, but part of me was left thinking about how it otherwise would have been outside my budget to attend.
Depending on the date and time, tickets can range from $35-$150. Though KCRep usually offers student discounts, they don’t for this particular show. The idea that college students on tight budgets aren’t being factored into the ticket prices for this classic, Kansas City tradition is slightly distressing.
Leaving things on a more positive note, “A Christmas Carol” is far and away the best play that I have seen at KCRep, and you will have no problem letting yourself be swept away by the stream of storytelling and performance. Elliot’s adaptation faithfully renders the wry humor and wit that Dickens is known for. It is a show that anyone can enjoy and will likely continue to think about now and again, and maybe even return to for 39 years (and more) to come.
“A Christmas Carol” runs through Dec. 29 at the Spencer Theatre on campus.