They're singing like the dickens at Chesapeake Music Hall.

The Annapolis dinner theater is serving up its annual holiday offering, an original musical adaptation of "A Christmas Carol," which features a score that fits Charles Dickens's classic tale like stuffing fits a goose.

"A Christmas Carol" has been transformed into a million versions--practically every TV sitcom, drama series and movie star has coughed up a rendition of the yuletide ghost story. And plenty of them are musicals, from "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" and "The Muppet Christmas Carol" to the British production "Scrooge," starring Albert Finney.

Amazingly, all these varied tellings of the original yarn have a certain amount of charm. In that respect, the Chesapeake production is right in tune.

Producer Sherry Kay deserves a sleigh-load of credit for the show, as director, choreographer, costumer and set designer.

Kay has rounded up a cast full of holiday spirit and has animated its performance with eye-catching action and limited-but-workable special effects. Her set is drab and artificial, but it folds and unfolds cleverly to allow quick scene changes. And the colorful period costumes make up for the visual shortcomings of her set.

Chesapeake's adaptation sticks very closely to Dickens's own words, which helps to paint a vivid picture of London in the 1830s. Doug Yetter's music maintains the spell with echoes of old-fashioned hymns and ballads.

But Michael Hulett's ingenious lyrics are what make the music fun. Perhaps the best rhyme comes from "It All Comes 'Round," when a trio of grave robbers sings about profiting from the dead:

"When a man becomes terminal,

The vermin'll

Be fed."

Tom Quimby is rather likable as the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge, the wealthy miser who is taught a hard lesson in humanity from three spirits who visit him on Christmas Eve. Quimby is rather bombastic as Scrooge, but not so threatening and sadistic as his character is sometimes portrayed.

David B. Reynolds, a staple on Chesapeake's menu, justly steals the spotlight as numerous characters, most dramatically with his portrayal of the ghost of Scrooge's deceased partner, Jacob Marley. Director-costumer Kay's fine touch is evident here, dressing Marley up in a lime-spattered burial suit and mounting him on rollerblades, which enable him to whirl about the stage in an unearthly manner.

Unfortunately, the lighting on opening night Saturday made it tough to see some of the nuances of expression. Garrett R. Hyde's lighting design plunges the scenes properly into darkness and illuminates the stage with candles, but too often the faces were completely in the shadows. And because of the low ceiling at the theater, back lights shone into the audience members' faces. A few tweaks here and there should clear up the problem by the time this weekend rolls around.

Alan Hoffman, who also has starred in a slew of the dinner theater's productions, is warm and good-natured as Scrooge's nephew Fred. He leads Fred's party guests in one of the most enjoyable songs in the show, "Yes or No?"--a guessing game with a humorous punch line.

Danielle Treuberg sings a heartfelt ballad, "Take My Heart," as Scrooge's old girlfriend, Belle. As another character, Treuberg joins Frank Antonio and Sue Bell in that grave-robber tune, a real crowd-pleaser near the end of the show.

Some children are also among the cast, turning in creditable performances. Brynn Williams, a 6-year-old girl, shows surprising stage presence as Tiny Tim, who caps off the show with a twinkle-eyed delivery of Tim's signature line, "God bless us, every one"--a fitting ending to a tuneful "Carol."

"A Christmas Carol" continues Thursday through Saturday evenings, with Sunday and Wednesday matinees, at Chesapeake Music Hall, 339 Busch's Frontage Rd., Annapolis. Tickets range from $28.50 to $31.50. Call 410-626-7515 for reservations.