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Scrooge - The Musical (Southampton - tour)

Tommy Steele is "too likeable" in his eighth outing as Ebenezer Scrooge at the Mayflower Theatre

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Bill Kenwright production of SCROOGE with Tommy Steele directed by Bob Thomson
© Keith Pattison

For the eighth time, Tommy Steele takes on the title role in Scrooge - the Musical. Now in his late 70s, you might expect him to make a good Scrooge, but he lacks the meanness that is required. He plays for the laughs and the audience's sympathy. This musical version of Charles Dickens' story of redemption is the equivalent of a few hours on the naughty step.

It's your typical Christmas production, except expanded into a musical; a musical that includes the usual festive fare, though lacking in songs that would leave you humming along. There are a few exceptions. A clever moment comes when Scrooge is shown the future. He assumes that he has improved for the best, oblivious to the fact that everyone is rejoicing in his death. He leads the most memorable song, "Thank You Very Much", whilst his own coffin is carried away.

The rest of the cast perform the story marvellously. Barry Howard is a creepy Jacob Marley as he and the other unfortunate ghosts perform a ghoulish "Make the Most of This World". James Head dominates the stage as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and his sudden swings between jolly and bitterness toward Scrooge is engaging. Steve Hansel is a humble Bob Cratchett and there are some sweet moments from Tiny Tim. Craig Whiteley is pleasing as Scrooge's nephew, Harry, and together with his party guests they play an entertaining game "The Minister's Cat".

The production values are serviceable, and the magic effects too are impressive if a bit obvious. Otherwise, Scrooge does what it says on the tin, which is to tell the story of A Christmas Carol. Most of the cast do this wonderfully, but they are let down by Steele's too lovable performance of the measly old man. Nonetheless, this is a pleasant Christmas musical for the whole family.

- David Jobson