William A. Reilly and Gary Lamb have transplanted Charles Dickens tale to Upton Sinclairs Chicago in a quasi-Brechtian musical take on the Christmas favorite. There are, of course, slight changes in characterization: Tiny Tim Cratchit (Malek Hanna) is now a union organizer at Fezziwigs Meats, where his father, Bob (Lamb), is trying to preserve his job in a bad economy (one of many parallels to our current business climate). Instead, the role of the lovable waif goes to a Christina Jessup (Shannon Lamb), who, with her mother, is made homeless by the unfeeling Scrooge (Michael Vodde) at the storys outset. The rest of the events unfold in a more familiar Dickensian fashion, while set to Reillys music. Unfortunately, director-choreographer Tam Warner creates a strange hybrid between Verfremdungseffekt and emotional realism, giving the play a presentational feel that at times resembles a Christmas pageant. Dean Camerons gritty, versatile set and Caitlin Erin OHares colorful costumes provide visual appeal, and a number of the players have pleasant voices, most notably Tara Brown, who plays Scrooges erstwhile love, Isabella Fezziwig. Despite the feel-good ending, due solely to the happy resolution of Christinas tragedy (and Shannon Lambs cute looks), the emotional heart of the show is missing, making us wonder if Scrooges transformation was really the dream. Crown City Theater, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through December 21. (818) 377-4055.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 29. Continues through Dec. 21, 2008