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DOUBTS SURROUND `CHRISTMAS CAROL' PRODUCER

The recent ad in The Kansas City Star looked inviting: Two companies of Hollywood stars would be coming to the Midland Theatre in December to appear in "A Christmas Carol."

Now, one of the two companies has been canceled. The other is still scheduled, but the show's producer has a troubled business history that includes jail time and more than one instance of advertising shows that failed to open. So far, the producer says, ticket orders from the Kansas City area total more than $100,000.According to the ad, "A Christmas Carol" will be narrated by Sir John Gielgud. One company of actors, including Patrick McGoohan, Brian Keith, Michael Tucker and Louis Anderson, was advertised to appear Dec. 13-15. A second company - starring Jon Voight, Daniel J. Travanti, Shirley Jones and Peter Boyle - was for Dec. 16-18.

Producer Kevin Von Feldt, who said he wrote this adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic while serving eight months in the Los Angeles County Jail, said the ensemble headed by Voight has been dropped because negotiations with Voight's representatives had turned sour.

Kansas City audiences, then, are to see a weeklong run featuring McGoohan as Scrooge with supporting performances by Keith, Tucker and Anderson, Von Feldt said. Gielgud's voice will be on tape.

Von Feldt says he has received about 3,400 ticket orders, worth about $102,000, from the Kansas City area. He said his organization was contacting those who ordered the 2,500 or so tickets for the Voight company to let them know of the change and to offer refunds. He added that he also had taken out similar ads in Dallas, Houston and the Detroit area.

Barry Pollock, McGoohan's business agent, said from Los Angeles that discussions had taken place about his client's involvement but that McGoohan had not yet signed a contract.

Von Feldt said that only one of the advertised actors, Michael Tucker, had signed a contract by the time the ad appeared but that he expected others to sign soon.

Von Feldt said he is a legitimate producer struggling to live down a past tainted by bad breaks, bad judgment, bad press and unfair prosecution.

According to reports published from 1985 through 1992 in the Los Angeles Times, Von Feldt has run afoul of the law more than once by placing misleading ads and promoting nonexistent entertainment packages, as well as selling tickets and charging training fees for an airline that existed only on paper.

Von Feldt confirmed the court judgments against him as reported in the Times but said he typically refunded ticket money when projects didn't materialize. Detective Richard Levos of the Los Angeles Police Department, who investigated a season of plays and musicals Von Feldt advertised in 1991, confirmed that he knew of no ticket-buyers at the time who failed to receive refunds.

Levos said that Von Feldt "wants in the worst way" to be a successful producer and that in the past he appeared to suffer from poor organization and insufficient capital.

In 1991, Von Feldt pleaded no contest in municipal court to charges of misleading advertising stemming from a proposed series of plays and musicals. Among them was Arthur Miller's dark classic "Death of a Salesman," which was to have starred comedian Don Rickles.

Von Feldt was fined and placed on three years of probation. City attorneys at the time said Von Feldt used the name of Rickles and other stars in his ads without authorization.

"No customer lost any money," Von Feldt said. "I escrowed every dollar.

In 1992, Von Feldt came close to getting "A Christmas Carol" up and running in Los Angeles. After 11/2 weeks of rehearsals, however, he discovered the theater he had rented lacked proper zoning for an extended theatrical run. The show never opened.

According to officials of Actors Equity Association, the union for stage actors, Von Feldt still owes it more than $12,900 in connection with the abortive 1992 production.

By union rules, Von Feldt cannot hire Equity actors - including the stars in the recent newspaper ad - until he pays the debt and posts a bond for the new touring production of "A Christmas Carol."

He said he would pay the old debt and post the new bond - about $60,000 - within a few weeks.

"All of this stuff up to 1992 is true," Von Feldt said. "I was living on the edge and trying to do things and was undercapitalized."