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Producer-director of Kodak's troubled 'Christmas Carol' plans repeat performance

January 21, 2009 | 10:51 am

Christopher Lloyd in 'A Christmas Carol' Could it be the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?

Culture Monster readers may be familiar with the sorry saga of producer-director Kevin Von Feldt and his ill-fated "A Christmas Carol" (Dec. 22-Jan.4)  As detailed in several of our posts, the show experienced casting and technical problems and, despite a starry lineup that included John Goodman, Jane Leeves and Christopher Lloyd (left), ended up realizing only 18.8% of the potential box office.

And since the show closed, some involved in the production began appending comments to our story about producer-director Von Feldt's difficulties with the show -- as well as to F. Kathleen Foley's review of the production -- complaining that Von Feldt had not paid them for their work.

After weeks of refusing Culture Monster's requests for a telephone interview, Von Feldt finally called to acknowledge that there are indeed many bills he has left partially unpaid to creditors in the wake of the show's financial failure.

But -- and this is the surprising part -- Von Feldt believes the best way to pay his bills is to produce "A Christmas Carol" again next year.

Von Feldt says that, instead of paying any one individual off in full, he chose to use what little funds he had available at the end of the run to pay everybody at least something toward the total owed. That way, everybody is only sort of unhappy, instead of some people being "horribly unhappy," he said.

One of those creditors has been sort of unhappy for more than 15 years ...

Scenic designer Bryan Ryman designed the sets for Von Feldt's 1994 "A Christmas Carol"  at Pasadena's Raymond Theatre, which was also plagued with production problems, debt and unpaid bills; this time around he received a credit as "design consultant." Not only did Ryman receive only partial payment for services rendered on the new production, Von Feldt confirmed that Ryman never received the $35,000 owed to him in 1994. But "nobody got paid on that," Von Feldt explained.

Von Feldt insists that he will pay everyone off someday.  Towards that goal, he said he preferred to send token amounts to all instead of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and paying no one.

And Von Feldt figures the chance to do the show again next Christmas -- "somewhere outside Los Angeles" -- will earn him enough money to pay everybody off from this year. For this reason, he says he has put some of the funds he has left from "A Christmas Carol" in his bank account in his home base in Wisconsin.

"If I paid everything out that I have right now ... I don't have money left to mount the show, and take advantage of the fact that we have the set built, and the costumes; then, I have a problem," Von Feldt says. "That's my dilemma -- figuring it out." 

The reason Von Feldt finally decided to phone Culture Monster?  He thinks all those negative comments that creditors have appended to our recent posts about "A Christmas Carol" might get in the way of producing next year's show.

"People get upset about money, they have bills to pay," he said. "The only way they can think of helping themselves is to call you, thinking that you will write something -- that's not going to help them get paid. It goes the opposite way. I can't get an actor to go out and play in the Midwest so I can pay this stuff because the actor's agent is reading this stuff in the paper. It doesn't help."

-- Diane Haithman

Photo: Christopher Lloyd as Ebenezer Scrooge in the Kodak's "A Christmas Carol." Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times