I mentioned in my last post I would like to organize these Scrooge reviews but the truth is they will end up being jumbled up because I get access to them at different times depending on when they air, are available from the library and other opportunities to watch come up.
So I had the 2004 musical version called A Christmas Carol: A Musical on my DVR and gave it a watch last night. It was my first time viewing this version. I’ve decided to not give grades for these movies but to just make note of the differences, strengths and weaknesses in each adaptation. So, let’s talk about what makes this version special!
2004 A Christmas Carol: The Musical
In this version we get a musical in the style of Oliver! Music is by Alan Menken with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and it is very solid songs.
|Kelsey Grammer as Ebenezer Scrooge|
|Jane Krakowski as Ghost of Christmas Past/Lamplighter|
|Jesse L. Martin as Ghost of Christmas Present/Sandwich Board Man|
|Geraldine Chaplin as Ghost of Christmas Future/Blind Old Hag|
|Jason Alexander as Jacob Marley’s Ghost|
|Edward Gower as Bob Cratchit|
|Linzi Hateley as Mrs. Cratchit|
|Jacob Collier as Tiny Tim|
Scrooge- Kelsey Grammar, he’s pretty good although the hunched over, old impression feels like something that would work better on the stage. His singing voice is very good.
Opening sequence which is usually at the counting house is at the stock exchange.
Singing throughout not just the occasional song
The Jacob Marley scene is unique. Instead of just Jacob you have an array of ghosts that do a number similar to Tevye’s Dream in Fiddler on the Roof.
They also integrate the story of Dickens father going to the debtor prison as part of Scrooge’s story. There is a scene in a courtroom where Scrooge’s father tells his son after being convicted ‘save your pennies. Make your fortune and keep it’.
We see Scrooge working in a shoe factory as a child which no other version had done which I’ve seen and that actually makes sense.
They use the Cratchit’s less than other versions and have Scrooge’s mother say the ‘God Bless Us Everyone’ line.
Other differences are you see Marley die which I don’t recall in other versions. Scrooge actually seems upset by this.
This is the only version I know of where Ghost of Future is a woman and not a grim reaper type.
All of the ghosts are seen in earlier scenes interacting with Scrooge. Ghost of Present is very well played by Rent’s Jesse L Martin who has such a great bass voice. He is a showman who puts on a play (which he had invited Scrooge too earlier) as part of his demonstration to Scrooge
Christmas Past is played by Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock fame and she shows Scrooge a book with the memories that they dive into, which is a unique take
Another difference is Scrooge refuses to give Fezziwig a loan just before his girl Emily (Jennifer Love Hewitt) breaks up with him. That was a very effective scene with Scrooge’s mentor realizing how cold his pupil has sunk.
Strengths- The music is a strength. I didn’t like every song but for the most part they are solid musical numbers that have the Menken flair (lyrics aren’t always great but it’s tough to be original with Christmas music).
All of the singing is excellent. Grammar has a lovely voice as well as Martin, Krakowski, and Gower. There is also a good chemistry amongst the cast. They all felt like a community, supporting one another (or not in the case of Scrooge). I surprisingly thought Jennifer Love Hewitt was effective in her brief scene as Emily.
The special effects with the ghosts, and various changes to the story with Scrooge’s father and refusing Fezziwig’s loan were interesting and effective. Also I thought the unique Ghost of Future was good. Nice to see some dialogue and personality in that character.
Weaknesses- Jason Alexander is miscast as Marley. I don’t know if it is just weird for me seeing George Costanza as Marley or if his performance is that off. It just didn’t quite gel.
Another issue is the makeup is very badly done and the lighting makes characters look kind of gaunt and pale, even Martin who is supposed to be alive and boisterous had sunken eyes and an emaciated look about him. It lessened the effects of Ignorance and Want because everyone already looked like them.
The finale is moving and it is nice to see Fran again but I missed the desperation and real intensity the scene normally has. It felt more like an inspirational group number than a pleading call for mercy.
Overall, I enjoyed the version. It has it’s technical issues with the makeup and lighting, but I thought the songs were good, performances pretty good and the changes in the story for the most part worked and were interesting. So, if it is on your dvr give it a watch.