Book, Music and Lyrics: Leslie Recuse
Director: Bob Tomson
Designer: Paul Farnsworth
Reviewer: Rosie Revell
It has been 170 years since the publication of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and the redemption of true miser Ebenezer Scrooge has touched audience’s hearts ever since and inspired many many different versions. From audience reaction to this Scrooge it is clear its popularity has no signs of dimming yet. Musical legend Tommy Steele takes the title rôle for the eighth time in this very functional and capable musical retelling of the festive favourite.
Ever the consummate showman Steele’s Scrooge is eminently watchable, but more naughty schoolboy than life- hardened miser. Steele plays the audience and the show for laughs which grates after a while. While amusing and certainly entertaining it’s a real shame that he and the show shy away from exploring the darker aspects of the story and indeed the character which make the final redemption of Scrooge ring a little hollow.
The songs are great fun but not particularly memorable. Steele and company attack each number with real energy and gusto; unfortunately they were often drowned out by the orchestra. The opening of the show “Sing a Christmas Carol” sung by the company starts beautifully, undoubtedly there is some real vocal talent among the chorus, but the music really overpowers the words and really takes away from the overall enjoyment. Numerous other numbers suffered the same fate.
Steele has a few numbers that emphasise his power on the stage and remind you just why he is so popular. He is able run the gamut of emotions in these songs; the upbeat “Thank You Very Much” is a highlight that has the audience tapping their feet and clapping along as is the moving ballad “Happiness.” Steele also has the benefit of an excellent supporting cast. Barry Howard’s Jacob Marley is suitably creepy as he and his team of ghouls strut their stuff and chains to “Make The Most of This World.” Abigail Jaye (Ghost of Christmas Past) is particularly gentle and tender as she points out Scrooge’s mistakes. James Head’s Ghost of Christmas Present is particularly excellent as fluctuates from jovial to despair with Scrooge in the blink of an eye. He leads the whole company in “I Like Life” and it ends the first act on a real high.
The production values of the show are very high. Choreography and costumes were impeccable, and Paul Farnsworth’s dark London set was particularly impressive as it opened out and brightened up away from the London slum, with the coming of Christmas morning to a wider, brighter London skyline.
Scrooge takes to the stage with much energy and enthusiasm and that certainly makes it an enjoyable night out and an excellent reminder that Christmas is just around the corner. The festive season certainly starts here.