English scribe Charles Dickens wrote more than 40 characters for his famed novella “A Christmas Carol.” In the latest theatrical adaptation playing Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre, American actor Jefferson Mays tries his hand at all of them. Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the triad of Christmas ghosts get the Mays treatment in a spirited solo performance. Truncation is the only alteration to Dickens’ tale here, which Mays both narrates and occupies. The result is a theatrically ambitious but utterly aimless offering of holiday bah humbug.

The motion to physically morph into all of the players in “A Christmas Carol” is a proper challenge for Mays. The Tony-winning performer has made a career of character roles and earned that esteemed award in 2004 for playing another 40+ people in Doug Wright’s “I Am My Own Wife.” Ironically, though, Mays is not. His actual wife, Susan Lyons, is co-adaptor of this current rendition of Dickens’ holiday staple, along with Mays and director Michael Arden (scenic and costume designer Dane Laffrey is credited as a co-conceiver). Mays performs “Carol” by rote and carries the edited-down version expertly, whipping through the well-known tale with aerobic dexterity and a knack for altering body posture and vocal cadence according to character.

Arden moves his subject forward through each of Dickens’ staves, but the production arrives nowhere. There is no unique point of view or revelation from this solo “Carol,” which puts Mays’ malleability to waste. The production skews gloomier than most modern retellings. A casket taunts us from center stage before the show begins. Then, a loud, booming sound (design by Joshua D. Reid) shocks us into action. Courtesy of lighting designer Ben Stanton, deep shadows envelop the stage — an effect which successfully relays a cinematic-like quality of ominousness, but unsuccessfully keeps its audience awake.

Arden’s only unique touch on the tale is his choice to dwell the production in darkness. It’s an apt interpretation when compared to New York City’s current climate — both weather and news cycles have gone bleak. But ridding a proscenium of most of its light does not hide its cracks. After visits from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, Ebenezer Scrooge (the story’s resident grinch) realizes the errors of his malevolent miser ways. This shortened adaptation rushes to redeem Scrooge for all his anti-altruism, but provides no answer as to what caused it.

This is not Mays and Arden’s first go-around — this production debuted at the Geffen Playhouse in 2018 and was captured live for an on-demand video release. The footprint of that digital rendering remains in this staging (festively adorned by Laffrey) but abuses every technical theatrical effect in the toolbox: fog machines, those aforementioned sonic booms and projections by Lucy Mackinnon. Attention to the spectacle feels laborious for any audience member who knows the story. At my performance, crowds audibly reacted to the setup of famous scenes before they played out.

Broadway resurrects history’s most cherished stories often, but remounting a story this cherished for this amount of time (“A Christmas Carol” has been in consistent print since 1843) forgoes the most exciting impact a show can have on its audience: the ability to thrill — or, even better, reveal something new. If the only novelty a reinvention can boast is its ability to prune many jobs into just one, what purpose does it serve? Sure, Mays gets to deliver a frenzied but impressive performance unhindered by other players, and Arden, who notably directed revivals of “Once on This Island” and Deaf West Theatre’s “Spring Awakening,” gets to reassert his knack for ornamenting New York stages with pretty versions of established stories — but neither merits reason for a full Broadway production.

By the end of “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge is desperately reacquainted with his community. Scrooge becomes “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.” He makes a donation to the same charity he shuttered before the restless night of spectral house guests, he finally accepts the invitation from his nephew Fred to share a meal with the family and he even gifts associate Bob Cratchit with a raise. It’s disorienting, then, that a major retelling of Dickens’ propaganda for peace would choose to remove all sense of community and allow only one actor 90 minutes of self-narration. As luxurious and theatrically adventurous as “A Christmas Carol” is, there is no substitute for purpose. And sadly, this revival has none.

“A Christmas Carol” opened at the Nederlander Theatre on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022.

Review photo: Courtesy of DKC/O&M.

Creative: Written by Charles Dickens; Adapted by Jefferson Mays, Susan Lyons and Michael Arden; Production conceived by Michael Arden and Dane Laffrey; Directed by Michael Arden; Associate Director: Justin Scribner; Scenic Design by Dane Laffrey; Costume Design by Dane Laffrey; Lighting Design by Ben Stanton; Projection Design by Lucy Mackinnon; Sound Design by Joshua D. Reid; Hair, Wig and Makeup Design by Cookie Jordan; Puppet Design by John Kristiansen.

Produced by Hunter Arnold and Kayla Greenspan.

Cast: Jefferson Mays, Peter Bradbury, Danny Gardner and Alex Mandell.