Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the most ubiquitously renowned characters from the oeuvre of the writer, Charles Dickens. The character, derived from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, published in 1843 was the subject of the author’s first public reading in Birmingham, and his enthusiasm for the character’s story carried on throughout Dickens’ whole life.
From Alec Guinness to Roger Daltry, and from Michael Caine to the Flintstones – the reincarnations of the infamous Scrooge have been presented to us in a multitude of memorable performances. The popularity of Scrooge’s story however, isn’t surprising. A classic, and predictable tale that tugs at the heartstrings, Scrooge takes the audience on Ebenezer’s journey from a cold-hearted, and embittered man, who loathes Christmas, through to a 180 degree turning point, which finds the miserly lout becoming a generous, and forgiving individual.
Here, in its 2009 touring production, the legendary Tommy Steele once again reprises the role of Scrooge, which he successfully performed during two previous theatre runs. At 72, Steele is still a popular favourite – holding the stage for the majority of the show, taking us through the various facets of Scrooge’s self-loathing, unravelling his guilt, in splendid, show-stopping song and dance numbers. A massive hit with audiences, the talented singer and actor manages to continuously draw in sell out crowds, many who are eager to give the man a standing ovation.
Also worth considerable note here is the direction by Bob Tomson, who consistently keeps viewers engaged by propelling the action forward, and to designer, Paul Farnsworth, whose sumptuous set design brings a lively dimension to the overall production. Illusionist Paul Kieve is worthy of exceptional kudos on this count as well, for developing stage tricks that continuously perpetuate eye-popping gasps of confusion.
The production does tend to drag a little at times, with many song numbers being reprised throughout. And while the story is still undoubtedly prescient for some, one can’t help but feel like the tale of this disgruntled geezer is a bit outdated. A wealthy man being forgiven for his sins by throwing money at his problems, isn’t exactly nuanced, nor does it pose the same gripping character identification found in narratives such as, Frank Capra’s film classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, which presents a similar journey.
Still, theatregoers eager to get into the holiday spirit won’t be disappointed, if only for the wonderful song, ‘Make the Most of this World’ – performed by the phantoms, the number is a hilarious, and imaginative instance of frivolous abandon.