Composer: Miles Goodman
Lyrics: Paul Williams
Film Director: Brian Henson
Original Book: Charles Dickens
30 years ago, the most magical film was released. Without argument, the best Christmas film of all time. The Muppet Christmas Carol. A staple of many families Christmas traditions, this retelling of the Charles Dickens classic has a lasting endurance that cannot be denied. Whether it’s seeing Sir Michael Caine earnestly interact with Kermit the Frog; the sadness of Meeses without Cheeses; or simply the spreading feeling of warmth and Christmas spirit that comes from hearing the immortal line “God bless us, everyone”, there’s just something about the film that makes it clear that the Jim Henson Company bottled lightening. So, imagine the frisson of excitement palpable amongst the audience when you combine this wonderful cinematic vision with a live orchestra. Has there ever been a film more suited for an event like this?
The movie itself was always going to be excellent, but the extra special addition of the orchestra enhances the experience tenfold. On one hand, it was easy to forget they were there as the music was so in synch with the projected film, but equally you could ignore the film and just enjoy the musical performers on their own merit. They play every single bit of music in the film, from the opening Disney logo to the end credit medley. The obvious benefit here is the enrichment of the songs, adding a warmth and substance one couldn’t get from the film alone. The first entrance of Scrooge (Michael Caine) is made much more dramatic during the eponymous Scrooge, and even the slightly tedious Bless Us All brings a tear to many an eye when backed by full brass and strings. Of course, the big question for the audience was always are they going to include When Love is Gone, the duet famously cut and lost, until it was reinstated for Disney+? And happily, yes, they do. The song is another one vastly improved by a live experience. The unexpected benefit to the orchestral experience however is how much they emphasised the incidental background music, which really helped build tension and emotion in the audience, especially during scenes like Scrooge’s search of his house before bed and those with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Viewers new to the film should be aware that such music does overwhelm the dialogue at some points however.
The Muppet Christmas Carol in Concert is touring throughout December, and the closer it gets to the day itself, the more enjoyable such an experience will get. Not only is it a wonderful film, but it is also an excellent introduction to orchestral performance, and one that would be equally enjoyed by humbug adults and present hungry children. Fitting it into the Christmas plans is highly recommended. Grab some mulled wine, don your Christmas jumper, and practice your fa la la-ing, this is a spectacle not to be missed.
Reviewed on 5th December 2022.