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Scrooge (tour – Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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The opening night of the latest tour of Scrooge brought enormous amounts of festive cheer to a wet and windy Eastbourne and, although only late October, within a few minutes the packed house was aglow with thoughts of roasting chestnuts, mulled wine and the joy that only Christmas can bring.

Leslie Bricusse’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol first appeared in 1992 and then starred Anthony Newley. It was subsequently revived in 2003 with Tommy Steele playing the title character, and it is that London Palladium show, complete with its legendary leading man, which now takes to the road.

This production – the like of which is rarely seen in “the provinces” – uses the full, spectacular, London set and features a sizeable live orchestra. Together they create a sumptuous backdrop to showcase the enthusiastic singing and dancing of this large and talented cast.

The score, which features the brilliant “Thank you very much”, supports the well-known story flawlessly and the production is further enhanced with some perfectly timed comedy and a few magical illusions, which left most of the audience suitably awestruck.

Barry Howard ,of Hi-Di-Hi television fame, features as Jacob Marley and he starts the illusions off by walking though a wall as he first appears to Ebenezer Scrooge late on Christmas Eve night. He warns Scrooge that three spirits are about to appear in the hope that they may help him to see the error of his ways, and to change his life for the better.

The spirits do, as forecast, appear each bringing with them visions of Scrooge’s life and a liberal dose of illusions as well. James Head, reprising his role as The Spirit of Christmas Present, deserves special mention for his terrific portrayal, his wonderful illuminated cloak and his spectacular entrance.

Two other performers also merit special mention. Finian Hackett as Tiny Tim acted well beyond his years, and gave a solo singing performance that left many watery eyed and Jonathan David Dudley deserves heaps of praise for handling at least five different parts in the piece, including the quickest change from vicar to policeman ever seen.

Without doubt this piece is the perfect vehicle for Steele whose sprightly dance moves and strong voice are as good as those of a man many years his junior and whose comic one-liners had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. As the nights grow darker, and thoughts turn to Christmas time, Scrooge is, put simply, a fantastic festive treat for all the family.


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