TV entertainer Michael Barrymore – who returns to the stage this Christmas to take the title role in Scrooge (See News, 7 Jun 2006) – gave journalists a taste of miserly Ebenezer at an open rehearsal for the production held today (8 November 2006) at St Mark’s Church rehearsal space in Marylebone, London.

The touring production opens at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre on 14 November 2006, where it runs until 18 November, before visiting His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen (20 November to 2 December), Sunderland Empire (5 December to 13 January), Oxford’s New Theatre (15 to 20 January), Liverpool’s Empire Theatre (22 to 27 January), and Edinburgh Festival Theatre (29 January to 10 February).


It’s a brave stage comeback for the entertainer who fled from his West End debut three years ago in his one-man comedy show at Wyndham’s Theatre after just three performances and largely damning reviews, emigrating to New Zealand (See News, 19 Sep 2003). Controversy came in 1995 when Barrymore announced that he was homosexual, despite being married for nearly 20 years. He continued to receive a rough ride in the tabloid press for perceived drunken and unruly bad behaviour, which culminated in March 2001 when a man was found dead in the pool of Barrymore's Essex home after an impromptu late night party. When pulling out of his 2003 West End comedy season two months early, Barrymore apologised to fans, explaining that "the pressure of the last two years has taken its toll".

At today’s launch, Scrooge producer Bill Kenwright commented on Barrymore’s resilience: “I have tried for several Christmases to entice Michael back to the British theatre to perform Charles Dickens’ favourite character and was absolutely overjoyed when this year he agreed. Michael is a brave man, a brilliant entertainer; he will be the perfect Scrooge.”

Aside from this year’s Celebrity Big Brother, in which Barrymore came runner-up to “fake” celebrity winner Chantelle Houghton, Barrymore’s many television credits include New Faces, Strike It Lucky, Saturday Night Out, Kids Say the Funniest Things, Animals Do the Funniest Things and the eponymous Michael Barrymore Show, Barrymore and Barrymore on Broadway. He later starred in the comedy drama Bob Martin. He has also released his autobiography Awight Now: Setting the Record Straight.

In Scrooge, Barrymore follows in the footsteps of Tommy Steele, who played the miserly Ebenezer in Leslie Bricusse’s musical of the seasonal classic at the Palladium last Christmas, and EastEndersShane Richie, who helmed a simultaneous staging in Bristol. The production is directed by Bob Tomson and designed by Paul Farnsworth.

- by Caroline Ansdell