Bricusse’s musical, an adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens’ tale A Christmas Carol, fits Steele like a glove as he takes top billing in the title role for a sixth time.
As Ebenezer Scrooge, Steele, who turns 75 in a few weeks, hardly leaves the stage throughout the two hour performance and makes the transition from the miserable, money-obsessed Scrooge to the kind, thoughtful and caring uncle Ebenezer with aplomb.
His Scrooge is every bit the dislikeable, humbug of a fellow Dickens created but through his transformation – with the odd comical quip here and there - he draws you in by his ability to show empathy from within his character.
While Steele’s star quality shines through, this production is enhanced further by the creative talents of illusionist Paul Kieve, the man who advised on the ‘magical’ effects within Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and recently for the West End production of Ghost the Musical.
Kieve’s introduction of the supernatural characters that visit and haunt Steele cleverly brings the fantasy of the story to the forefront. The arrival of Scrooge’s former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, caused some audience members to gasp and witter their admiration of the illusion.
In particular, the entrances of Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Present, played excellently by Barry Howard and James Head respectively, will stick in memory from Head’s sudden appearance from behind a bed curtain to Howard’s arrival from behind an open door.
The illusions and Steele’s performance are, however, supported by a strong cast and Joshua Boyd as Tiny Tim, the unwell son of Scrooge’s suffering, underpaid clerk Bob Cratchit, pulls on the heart strings with his delivery of the famous line, “God bless us, everyone.”
Under Bob Tomson’s direction, Scrooge the Musical is slick and entertaining but does border on the tiresome in parts with the repetition of some songs. Anyone looking for an all-singing, all-dancing show will enjoy the production’s Oscar-nominated ‘Thank You Very Much’, arguably the most memorable from the musical score.
Nevertheless, it’s the entertainer from Bermondsey a majority have come to see which is clear from their standing ovation when Steele takes a bow at the end.
- Michael Hunt