Filling a theatre immediately after Christmas is never easy and I can well understand the attraction of welcoming the tour of Scrooge to the New Theatre as a way of continuing the festive season just a little longer. Add the fact that one of the most enduring performers of the last 50 years is playing the title role and surely you are on to a winner...
There is no denying that Tommy Steele still has a fan base - and looking round the audience, it is clear that they are still prepared to turn out to support him. He begins the show in good voice and full of energy - and my expectations rose somewhat. However by the end of the evening, he was visibly drained and could scarcely raise his voice above a whisper. This did not stop his fans from rising to their feet and applauding wildly for the curtain calls!
My main problem with the evening is the musical itself. It is pleasing enough with plenty of cod-Dickensian charm but not a single tune has stuck in my head now that I have left the theatre. Written in the years following the huge success of Oliver!, it is easy to see why Leslie Bricusse set about creating his version of A Christmas Carol but it really lacks the depth and quality of Bart's writing.
From a production point of view, there is much to admire on-stage. The sets are particularly effective and the magical effects, on the whole, are performed with great elan. I do have to question why the ghosts in one of the scenes start copying dance moves from the Thriller video - that sort of thing is barely acceptable in a pantomime.
The cast do work very hard with the material they are given. Of the dedicated ensemble, James Bisp stands out as Tom Jenkins (among others). He has a very winning way about him and brings a great deal of warmth and humour to the stage.
Overall I found the whole experience somewhat underwhelming. A good production of a poor musical. I suppose that is better than a poor production of a good musical - but only. Then again, perhaps I have had enough festivity for one season!