Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Scrooge - The Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Book, Music and Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse
Based on ‘A Christmas Carol’
by: Charles Dickens
Director: Bob Tomson

Choreography: Lisa Kent
Reviewer: Jim Nicholson

Years ago I remember seeing the original version of this starring Anthony Newley and Jon Pertwee and on leaving the theatre feeling underwhelmed but with the one positive thought that ‘Thank You Very Much’ would have fitted very nicely into Lionel Bart’s ‘Oliver’.

Well I can report that not only must I have matured somewhat in those intervening years, so to has this show. What a great night out it now is. Still the score is not the strongest and still ‘Thank You Very Much’ stands out like a true anthem, but now the book, the staging, the cast, the choreography, the set and the illusions have all come together to provide a compelling two and a half hours which culminates with even this old stager trying not to show the wife that there is a tear in the eye.

The cast are wonderful, ‘every one of them’, led by the charismatic and seemingly ageless Tommy Steele, just two weeks away from his 73rd birthday. He scowls, he growls, his face is a picture of perfection as he really captures the soullessness of Ebenezer ‘miserly old grouch’ Scrooge. He can still hold a note that many youngsters of today would kill for and that smile, is it not the cheekiest ever.

Claire Marlow as the ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’ has a glorious voice and Suzie Chard as ‘Mrs Fezziwig’ is ‘laugh your socks off’ funny. The booming voice of man mountain James Head as the ‘Ghost of Christmas Present’ rocks the house sending out a moral message heard by all. Overworked and underpaid Bob Cratchit (played by Geoffrey Abbott) is charitable to all, ‘no matter what’, and has a great rapport with ‘Tiny Tim’. Our Tim along with other members of ‘the Babette Langford Young Set’ do their tutors proud. Always cheerful the Cratchet families finest quickens the pulse and stirs the heart with his show of supreme optimism.

Barry Howard gets all the best ‘how did they do that’ moments as the chain burdened Jacob Marley. Illusionist Paul Kieve has come up with a number of scenes to keep the kids talking for weeks. Paul Farnsworth has produced a fine set, with Cheapside, London 1860 looking very, very authentic, if perhaps short of a little seasonal snow.

The choreography on the big numbers fills the stage with grown ups and kids alike and helps keep that smile on your face. Lisa Kent can feel very proud of her work here with ‘December the Twenty-Fifth’, ‘The Minister’s Cat’ and, of course, ‘Thank You very Much’ being the stand out routines.

This really is a show that has improved dramatically with time and now not only tugs at the heartstrings but certainly does the genius of Charles Dickens great credit.

Runs until Sat 5th Dec
frontpage hit counter