Leslie Bricusse's classic musical has been doing the rounds for many years now. Even though the score is a tad overly sentimental, this show still sends you home with a warm Christmassy feeling and a smile on your face.
On this current tour, Shane Richie plays miser, Ebenezer whose hatred of Christmas and love of money scares anyone who comes into the contact with the man. Based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol this musical version features all of the characters that you know and love including Bob Cratchit and his long suffering son, Tiny Tim.
Paul Farnsworth's glorious set whisks the audience back to the 18th Century and the familiar Dickensian vision of the UK; complete with frosted shop windows, cobbled streets evoking a close sense of community. Of the performers, Kara Lane's Ghost of Christmas Past is in fine voice and James Earl Adair's Marley's Ghost brings good humour and scary moments to the stage. Geoffrey Abbott's Bob Cratchit is warm but he does not overdo the part, resisting the urge to manipulate the audience.
Richie is a really delightful performer to watch as he thrives on the reaction of the audience, but he also wants us to see Scrooge's dark side - contrasting greatly with Tommy Steele's version. Of course - as this is a family production- it's not too long before Ebenezer sees the error of his ways. But there is enough light and shade here, thanks to Shane.
Paul Kieve’s illusions are still quite magical leaving kids with a “How did they do that?” expression on their faces and there are a couple of heart stopping moments along the way. Nick Riching’s fabulous lighting also adds atmosphere to this spirited piece.
There is the odd flaw as the first half seems too long for small children as it does seem drawn out. Also, although Bricusse’s score contains the odd foot tapper, many of the songs are not that memorable, hence the over reliance on the excellent ‘Thank You Very Much.’ But when you have an actor of Richie’s calibre, this hardly matters as he sings like his life depends on it. If you have not yet succumbed to the delights of the Festive Season or New Year, this is the ideal gift to put you in one ‘helluva’ good mood.
Only a Scrooge could not go home happy, dreaming of a white Christmas.
- Glenn Meads