IT'S A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL, Off Broadway Theatre, 272 S. Main; 7:30 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 7 p.m. on Saturdays, through Dec. 29. All seats reserved. Tickets range from $6 to $10. Box office: 355-4628. Running time: 2 hours (one intermission).

What would you get if two of the great icons of holiday lore — Ebenezer Scrooge from the "Bah, humbug!" school of Christmas and George Bailey of "It's a Wonderful Life" fame — came together in the same production?

The result would be somewhat far-fetched, slightly tetched and a whole lot of fun. And that's what you get in Off Broadway Theatre's presentation of "It's a Wonderful Christmas Carol."

The premise is this: George Bailey is an American intern working in the office of Ebenezer Scrooge, replacing that Cratchit guy, who has gone on to other things. Scrooge is still set in his anti-Christmas ways and is not paying Bailey a decent wage, so his landlord is about to foreclose, throwing George, Mary, little Zuzu and baby John onto the street.

So Bailey decides to jump off a bridge; he is stopped by Charlie, the angel; but to prove his life is still worth living, he must convert Scrooge to the spirit of Christmas. Bailey enlists his friends; they concoct an elaborate scheme involving the spirits of Christmas past, present and future — and it all comes out right in the end, with a few other plot twists along the way.

The show was written by Eric Jensen, who also plays Scrooge (he of bad temper and worse hair). Shawn Zumbrunnen has the role of George Bailey (complete with a wacky Jimmy Stewart accent). Both characters are delightfully over-the-top.

The supporting cast is equally good. Mike Brown plays Nigel, who moves from dopey solicitor to dopey spirit-of-Christmas actor to dopey missionary (one of those plot twists) with ease. Jared Greathouse does Fred, the few-ornaments-short-of-a-Christmas-tree nephew, with appropriate dimness.

Russ McBride is both villainous and hammy as landlord and actor, respectively. Michelle Zumbrunnen and Brandy McCarroll bring sparkle to the roles of Mary Bailey and Fred's wife. Felicia Kalani Anderton is credibly precocious as Zuzu Bailey. And Andrew R. Looney ties it all together as the narrator, Dickens (among other characters).

The dialogue is clever and witty, sometimes with a slight flavor of ribaldry, but also filled with puns, wisecracks, running gags, misinterpretations and lines out of everything from "The Wizard of Oz" to "Who's on First?"

There are some fun parodies of Christmas songs. Simple, but effective, sets and scenery add to the atmosphere.

It's a show that clearly appealed to all ages in the audience; youngsters (and some oldsters) also enjoyed a pre-show visit from Santa.

"It's a Wonderful Christmas Carol" is somewhat skewed, puts you in a lighthearted mood, and is fun for all.


E-mail: carma@desnews.com