A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984) – KENT STATE VERSION

PBSBalladeer’s Blog continues its annual orgy of versions of the Dickens classic as Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2019 resumes!

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984) – Don’t be misled by the 1984 date, this is neither the George C Scott version NOR the French TV version which I first reviewed years ago. This is a taped stage performance that aired on Ohio Public Television station WNEO on December 22nd, 1984.  

Just to give you an idea of the psychotically obsessive lengths I sometimes go to to track down these obscure versions of the Carol: Years ago when I bought this it was one of the many productions not available on video. Nor was it to be found on E-bay or Amazon or any of the usual outlets.

By emailing various staff members at Kent State University (whose theatre department mounted this version) I eventually reached a kind individual. He stated that, though the university did not have copies of the production for sale he would ask around on the KSU faculty’s exclusive chat boards to see if anyone had a copy they may have taped off television back in 1984.

As luck would have it a faculty member DID and they were willing to sell it. So I was a very happy Christmas Carol addict that year. At some point during one of my annual Christmas Carol-A- Thons I will detail what I did to get copies of some Canadian television versions of the Carol … assuming the Statute of Limitations has elapsed. (I’m kidding … maybe.)

William Curtis, a Kent State grad, wrote this adaptation which was performed at the Stump Theatre. This production walks a fine line between comedy and drama but does a pretty good job of it. It often goes “meta” on the audience, breaking the 4th wall but not nearly as often as they did in ancient Greek comedies (see my reviews) or on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show

The cast members danced their way onto the stage from all corners of the theatre, putting me in mind of the tv musical Fame. That memorable entrance sets the tone for the rest of the production.

The narrator (J.B. Stephenson) was one of my favorite elements and came across as a hybrid of 1980s Dennis Miller and the narrator of Our Town, and THAT’S a mixture that oddballs like me can savor! Scrooge was played by Ron Spangler, who depicted the old tightwad as a sarcastic and sardonic wise-ass.  

That may turn off purists but Spangler made it work, and to give you an idea picture Doctor Cox from Scrubs as Scrooge, complete with the way Cox’s underlying layer of decency was always at odds with his obnoxious, sharp-tongued and sometimes mean-spirited nature.   

The rest of the cast varies from so-so to barely competent, I’m afraid. The songs were not particularly memorable to me and reminded me of how bland I always found Leslie Bricusse’s songs for the movie Scrooge

I know there are a few other taped stage versions of A Christmas Carol that are out there but this one stands out a bit for its welcome dose of humor without drowning out the emotion.  

FOR MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/

© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

20 Comments

Filed under A CHRISTMAS CAROL

20 responses to “A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1984) – KENT STATE VERSION

  1. Garrett Kieran

    According to what I read, in this version, Scrooge is seen as more than a mere miser, but in fact as a quite humorous person. It does sound interesting, but it doesn’t pique my curiosity the way the Canadian Theatre Three and the American Conservatory Theater versions do. Still, I wouldn’t bypass this one if I had access to it.

  2. Cara

    Thanks for letting me know all about why I shouldn’t wish it were available to watch anyhow.

    I was planning to actually finally read the book sometime – I think it’s the only Dickens book I haven’t read. But now I’m thinking I’ll just keep reading your posts and figure out the story by the end of the December .

    I did like Dr. Cox in Scrubs but he just couldn’t show the woman he loved that he did. I think so – I stopped watching around the time he was all conflicted. I think that’s a life threatening disease. I hope he overcame it eventually. The ‘modern’ story writers – they rarely let characters find love and be happy. They like inconclusive endings or ‘poignant separations’. I can’t stand that stuff so I stopped watching.

    Just a humble suggestion. You could tag this post as #showingoff .

    • Ha! I like that joke about filling in the pieces of the book from my reviews. Yes, I think Dr Cox is the perfect comparison for this production’s Scrooge. When he tells the Ghost of Christmas Present regarding his nephew Fred “He favors Fan … I have always thought so.” it’s very moving and tear-jerking because you just KNOW he’s never TOLD Fred that.

      I like the humble suggestion!

      • Cara

        That was so clever Balladeer.

        As I haven’t read the book and don’t know who the Ghost is or Fred is or Fan or what on earth you were talking about, I now have to either read the book and find out or live curious forevermore.

        You did it on purpose too.

        How much are the dead peeps in the crypt paying you to promote their books anyway!

      • I like that! Nobody in the crypts is paying me anything, unfortunately. If you do go through with reading A Christmas Carol I hope you enjoy it. Fred is Scrooge’s nephew and Fan is Scrooge’s late sister.

  3. Cara

    Despite a dreadful feeling – like I was going to join an obsession fueled masked balladeer cult by reading the book – I started it.
    I rejected it when I was 10 because the description of Scrooge turned me off so much in the first few pages. But now I’m grown enough to understand what could warrant a man turning his face on the world like that.
    And it’s been a while since I enjoyed the beauty of writing that’s generous and vibrant like Dickens’ is.
    You’re an inspiration towards good things and thank you.

  4. Alec

    I went to Kent State during the 80s. This made me feel really old.

  5. Rolland

    Informative article, just what I was looking for.

  6. Lauren Spies

    I was in this production but can’t seem to find access to it. Help!

    • Hello! Good luck finding it! It took me years but long ago I reached out to the Kent State theater department (more than a decade ago now). They had no copies but they kindly posted a note on their faculty message board asking if anyone had taped the show on PBS. Someone did and sent me their copy. You’re not the first Kent State alum to contact me about this. If enough of you let KSU know that you would like copies of it maybe there is something they can do to help. I no longer have my copy. I get rid of VHS items all the time, unfortunately, or I’d have no room.

  7. Lydia

    I love the Christmas Carol too!

  8. Vince

    Dude there are way too many versions of this story!

  9. Emma

    The Dr Cox comparisons won me over!

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