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Film / A Christmas Carol: The Musical

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A Christmas Carol: The Musical is a 2004 Made-for-TV Movie that is based on a stage musical production that originally ran annually at Madison Square Garden from 1994-2003, which itself is based on a certain Charles Dickens novel.

The film version features Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge, flanked by an All-Star Cast, and premiered on NBC. Disney veteran Alan Menken provided the music, while Lynn Ahrens wrote the teleplay and lyrics.


This film provides examples of:

  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: Scrooge initially dismisses Marley as this, just like in the book.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: While the Ghost of Christmas Past is an attractive young woman in the film as played by Jane Krakowski, the Ghost appears as a childlike being in the book and as a young man in the 1994 stage play this film was based upon.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • The Ghost of Christmas Past is represented as smoke from a candle, which Scrooge snuffs out after her visit is over.
    • The Past sequence rewrites Scrooge's childhood to more closely resemble Charles Dickens' own. Rather than being from a well-off family but neglected in boarding school, in this version he came from a poor family, his father was sent to debtor's prison, and he was forced into child labor in a shoe factory.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: While Scrooge is a blonde in this film, most depictions have his hair as gray in his older age and brown or black in his younger years. His hair color is never mentioned in the book, though.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • This version gives us more of Young Scrooge's increasingly ruthless business dealings, showing him rejecting the Fezziwigs' application for a loan, and later shows the death of Jacob Marley as well.
    • Compared to the stage musical, the movie has more dialogue, particularly at Scrooge and Marley's firm in the past.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The name of Young Scrooge's fiancée is changed from Belle to Emily. This was allegedly done because Alan Menken had already composed a high-profile musical with an ingenue named Belle in it.
  • Adapted Out: Dick Wilkins, one of Scrooge's fellow apprentices from the book, is replaced with a young Jacob Marley.
  • All Just a Dream: While the stage version doesn't explicitly do this, the back of the movie's box, the bonus features, and audio commentary state that Scrooge's visitations were a dream. The sight near the end of the three Londoners who look suspiciously like the spirits dancing away together makes this ambiguous, though.
  • And You Were There: The actors who play the three spirits first appear in early scenes as a lamplighter, a charity show barker, and a blind beggar woman, respectively, who speak to Scrooge but are rudely brushed aside. It's later made clear that these people were the spirits in disguise.
  • Black Comedy: The other chained spirits Marley brings along are played for horror and humor, especially the headless ghost.
  • Canon Foreigner: Mr. Smythe and his daughter, Grace, aren't from the book.
  • Casting Gag: It's not the first time Jane Krakowski has played a character who's perpetually barefoot, except the last time she was in the Stone Age.
  • Catch Your Death of Cold: This version of Bob Cratchit has a cold and sneezes constantly due to Scrooge's stinginess with the coal in his office. Later, Scrooge himself catches Bob's cold.
  • Chain Pain: Marley and the other spirits chain Scrooge up as a warning of what will happen to him should he not change. The stage version tends to also have them strangle him with the chains or let him see firsthand how heavy they are to emphasize their points.
  • Children Are Innocent: Besides Tiny Tim, Grace Smythe gets through to Scrooge with her kindness and innocence.
  • Corpsing: The part where the Ghost of Christmas Present sings along with the others at Fred's house was ad-libbed. Scrooge bows his head at this. Kelsey Grammer looks ready to start laughing, but he manages to save the take.
  • Dark Reprise: The Christmas Yet to Come sequence is a medley of dark reprises: "Jolly Good Time", "Link By Link," "You Mean More to Me," "Nothing to Do With Me," and "God Bless Us, Everyone." The last two songs, along with "A Place Called Home," get a Triumphant Reprise when Scrooge is reformed.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Scrooge can be quite snarky. “Am I a charity? Am I the state?” when he refuses to show mercy to his client Mr. Smythe and his daughter Grace. And this gem: “At present I rather to go bed” when Marley’s ghost mentions the Ghost of Christmas Present. The Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge’s maid Mrs Mopps also have their moments as well.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Scrooge mocks Marley as being an Acid Reflux Nightmare, jabbing him with a finger until he gets agitated enough to really scare Scrooge.
  • Economy Cast: As in the corresponding stage version, members of an ensemble play a number of roles, including ghosts, party guests, and extras.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: A blind man's dog is hostile to Scrooge when they first meet, but kind to him in the end. The dog actually comes from the source material.
  • Ethereal White Dress: Instead of the traditional black hooded figure, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is an elderly female wraith dressed all in white.
  • The Faceless: Averted in this version. The Ghost Yet to Come does not wear a black hood to hide its face as in the book and many other adaptations.
  • Gender Flip: The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Yet to Come are both of Ambiguous Gender in the book, but obviously female in the film.
  • Ghostly Chill: When Marley's ghost hugs Scrooge, a cold pallor spreads across his body until they break contact.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: All over the Fezziwigs' party.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Jacob Marley dies this way at the end of the Christmas Past scenes. He remarks that he feels unusually tired, then moments later clutches his chest, stammers out Scrooge's name and falls down dead.
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: Scrooge's pleas to God and the Ghost of Christmas Future, in "Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today".
  • Ironic Hell: Some of the wandering spirits accompanying Marley have suffered even more ironic (and creepy) fates, including one who was "mean to the bone", another who "never had a heart", another who "never lent a hand", and a last who "wanted to get ahead".
  • It's the Best Whatever, Ever!: Tiny Tim calls what would have been his last Christmas "the best Christmas ever".
  • Let There Be Snow: It starts to snow just in time for the final number.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is portrayed as an elderly woman in an Ethereal White Dress, rather than the dark hooded Grim Reaper-like figure of tradition.
  • Magical Negro: The Ghost of Christmas Present is a jolly black man who offers Scrooge "free of charge... a bit of magic... on me."
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Ultimately, it's left up to the viewer to decide if the spirits really visited Scrooge or if it was just a dream.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The Ghost Of Christmas Past in this version is a young blonde woman with a very short dress that shows that She's Got Legs due to her being played by Jane Krakowski. She even does a little pole dancing on one of Scrooge's bedposts.
  • The Musical: Onstage much of the runtime is covered in song, and while the movie has more dialogue it's still mostly sung.
  • Named by the Adaptation:
    • Fred's wife, who was unnamed in the original novel, is named Sally here.
    • Scrooge's maid is named Mrs. Mops.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Rather than try a British accent, Kelsey Grammer merely uses the posh tone he used for Frasier.
  • The Oner: Used in the opening to show many characters who will feature later.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: After Scrooge's reformation, the three spirits dance away happily in their earthly disguises, confirming that some part of the experience was real.
  • Patter Song: "Nothing To Do With Me" has Scrooge speaking/singing in quick rhythm as he disparages those around him.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In some versions, including the movie, Scrooge tells the lamplighter she's not fit for the job since she's a woman. He also disparages the poor, lame, and blind.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Downplayed, as Scrooge punctuates each statement of what he thinks Marley is by poking him. The stage production sometimes has him push Marley around as well, until he snaps and howls at Scrooge.
  • Race Lift: In the film, the Ghost of Christmas Present is played by the African-American Jesse L. Martin.
  • Recurring Riff: "A Place Called Home", "Christmas Together", and "God Bless Us, Everyone" function as overarching themes, rather than isolated songs.
  • Scary Black Man: The Ghost Of Christmas Present is serious and scary when he's not being jolly.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The director used the dance scene from West Side Story to inspire a romantic scene at the Fezziwigs' ball.
    • A musical passage during the same ball briefly quotes "Thank You Very Much" from Scrooge (1970).
    • Scrooge shouts at his younger self to go after Emily when she leaves him, just like he does in the Patrick Stewart version.
    • After the Ghost of Christmas Present leaves, Scrooge is left alone and asks what he did to be so abandoned, a reference to a similar scene in the George C. Scott version.
    • In the future sequence, Mrs. Cratchit places Tiny Tim's crutch against his grave marker, just like Mickey-as-Bob does in the same scene in Mickey's Christmas Carol.
  • Show Within a Show: "Abundance and Charity" is done as if it were the musical being filmed onstage, complete with a visible orchestra and audience. note 
  • Stealth Pun: The Ghost of Christmas Past is noticeably Hotter and Sexier than most portrayals, and is depicted as smoke from a candle. In other words, she's smokin' hot.
  • Tempting Fate: Scrooge closes "Nothing To Do With Me" by saying at this rate he'd end up dancing in the snow and giving money to the poor, which is exactly what happens.
  • Tragic Bromance: Scrooge and Jacob Marley were genuinely good friends in this adaptation. The first thing Marley's ghost does upon appearing is burst into tears and hug Scrooge, and later, Scrooge is distraught at having to relive Marley's death in the Past sequence. Ruthless though he already was beforehand, we get the sense that Marley's death was the last straw that fully hardened Scrooge's heart.
  • Unexplained Accent: For some reason Scrooge's younger self has an accent his present-day self lacks.


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