Group Rep’s ‘A Carol Christmas’ puts feminine spin on Dickens classic in NoHo through Dec. 30

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A contemporary American re-imagining of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a focus on women, The Group Repertory Theatre’s world premiere of A Carol Christmas provides an upbeat examination of the holiday, blending excellent singing and acting.

Playwright/actor Doug Haverty and composer/director Bruce Kimmel’s glossy new musical tells the story of Carol (Hartley Powers), a dour, workaholic lifestyle maven making her staff’s lives miserable as Christmas approaches. Eccentric spiritual practices awaken her sensibilities and holiday spirit.

Kimmel’s 17 winning songs provide a witty, feminized updating of Dickens’ themes, offering a charming, optimistic hope for the future. His bouncy songs feature off-tempo melodies and hemiolas that jazz up rhythms and plot.

As a director, Kimmel keeps things fast-paced and energized, combining snappy one-liners with catchy anthems like a hip screwball comedy.

Powers’ megawatt charm and singing highlight the passionate production. Janet Wood’s and Debi Tinsley’s scene-stealing Karina and Odette provide comic razzle dazzle. Lloyd Pedersen adds moments of drop dead hilarity as a chipper Mr. Death in the ironic “Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil” number.

Production work is first rate, including Tesshi Nakagawa’s compact, multi-dimensional set, Morgan Gannes’ hip, colorful costumes, and Austin Quan’s atmospheric sound design.

A Carol Christmas is an entertaining, appealing refreshment of Dickens’ perennial holiday classic, a perfect family treat.

The Group Repertory Theatre presents “A Carol Christmas” Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm through December 30 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre located at 10900 Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood. There is no Friday, November 23 show, but a matinee on Saturday, November 24 at 2pm has been added. Talk-backs occur November 25 and December 9. Tickets cost $25, $20 for students and seniors with ID. Buy tickets at TheGroupRep.com or call (818) 763-5990.

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