Charles Dickens' famous tale has been reincarnated in what must be hundreds of interpretations; this forever touring musical adaptation by Leslie Bricusse has to be one of the most uninspiring of them all.
Whilst Bricusse’s score is sometimes grand, it is also painfully bland. Songs such as ‘Thank you very much’ may get the odd toe-tapping, but if one is subject to any more sentimental humming’s in regards to the 25th day of December then it can easily be seen why Scrooge may have turned against Christmas in the first place.
The stomach churning sweetness is as predictable as an inflated Christmas pudding in this production; including one toe curling performance from ‘Tiny Tim’ during which the child actor on stage mimes to an obviously pre-recorded track whilst the gathered family on stage smiles sweetly, yet falsely.
Tommy Steele obviously pleased his loyal fans in his interpretation of the title role; I personally found it to be too much of the old music hall to be able to connect with in any way.
Steele’s camp and hunched Scrooge didn’t lay quite right with Dickens' twisted and bitter character that, as an audience we love to hate. In fact, I was almost convinced of Scrooge’s melted heart from the moment he set foot on stage, and therefore saw no transition from the cold hearted business man to warm and friendly family man, except for Steele straightening in his posture.
Some of the chorus numbers do catch the heart that Christmas embodies, however they are soon flattened by the adopted appalling cockney accents that even Dick Van Dyke would be ashamed to call his own.
Paul Earnsworth’s designs match the traditional stylistics of the production in their grandeur and overstated appearance and do bring a little hint of west end spectacle to the amateur proceedings on stage.
All in all, not even Charles Dickens' wonderful narrative can save this production from its by-gone musical performance traits. I am quite sure that if I were to attend the production back in the 1960s I would have saw exactly what I witnessed on the stage this evening. Whilst this may satisfy the more traditional of theatre-goers, I was neither moved nor interested in this dated and irrelevant production.
- Ben Wooldridge