The Library Theatre has won enormous critical acclaim for their in house children's productions. Adaptations of Tom's Midnight Garden and The Borrowers began at the Library and have since toured the country. Most recently is Charles Way's musical adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, which has many things going for it. The Ghosts of Scrooge, however, doesn't quite reach the dizzy heights of the previously mentioned Christmas successes.
Michael Vaughan's Mr Scrooge has real verve and energy, coupled with a beautiful singing voice. But at times Charles Way and Richard Taylor's lyrics let him and many of the cast down, with the musical element merely slowing down the narrative. The evergreen tale of a miserly man who lives for money at the cost of all those around him feels stilted when music and song is added.
As the play progresses the highlights are not the song and dance routines, but the sheer enthusiasm of the child actors within the play. Kate Burnett's interchangeable set is equally delightful. The conveyor belt in the middle of the stage is particularly effective when Scrooge is confronted with his past. Nick Richings' oppressive lighting also conveys Ebeneezer's wrong doings and almost drives the story along when it seems to falter.
The supporting cast all deliver fine performances, with Julie Jupp standing above the rest. She grasps the minor role of Mrs Crachit with both hands and sings her heart out during the play's strongest number "Enough."
Updating Dickens' Christmas classic and adding music is a very brave idea, but ultimately this does not always work. At times Ghosts feels stuck in a time warp. Updated to a contemporary setting with lyrics of old means that the audience are often left confused. Another major problem is that only two of the songs stick in the memory. Roger Haines' direction is somewhat leaden. There are points when the play almost stops still. The young target audience may require a faster pace if they are to be kept entertained this Christmas holiday.
On the evening this reviewer attended the young children in the audience seemed to love this new musical, with an uproarious applause at the play's conclusion. However, I cannot help feeling that some of them found it overlong and a bit muddled.
- Glenn Meads