I bet most of you reading this at one time or another really believed in Santa Claus. You couldn’t get over how this old man travelled around the world in one night dropping off exactly the presents you had wished for in your letter to him. The whole thing was amazing and Santa was one of your utter heroes. Then, someone either by design or accident told you the truth and not only did you lose some of your childhood innocence but your Christmas would never be the same again. Wouldn’t you love to get that innocence back? Well, pop yourself along to The Bridge House Theatre and see their Christmas show, Another Night Before Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, Social Worker Carole (Rachael Wooding) is heading home from her work’s Christmas party. She is tired, fed up and just really wants to get her feet up in front of the television. As she walks, she spots a man (George Maguire) sitting on a stool muttering to himself. Assessing his unkempt appearance and dirty clothing, Carole assumes he is homeless and in a fit of generosity, offers the man the contents of her carrier bag – food left over from the Xmas party. The man gratefully accepts the gift and Carole goes on her way. When she arrives home, getting past her new super amazing burglar alarm system, Carole settles down in her spartan apartment and does her best to forget Christmas and everything associated with it, just as she has done for most of her life. Later that evening, as Carole sits alone, silently not celebrating the festive period, the young, homeless, chap she met earlier breaks in and joins her. Carole immediately flips out – as you would – and the situation isn’t made any better when the young man tells her that he isn’t a homeless beggar but is in fact, old Santa Claus in all his glory. Is he telling the truth? Is he lying and what exactly does Mr Moore have to do with everything?
If you really fancy a Christmas show but don’t necessarily want the over-the-top exuberance often associated with a pantomime, then Another Night Before Christmas is definitely the show for you. Unusually, for a two-hander the show is a musical – with a book and lyrics by Sean Greenan and music by Leah Okimoto – and a really good one at that. The story is really good and, I think resonated with everyone who had ever believed in Santa Claus or has come to hate the commercialisation and extension of Christmas – I am one of team “keep it in December”. I think my one minor criticism was that it felt like the ending came rather too quickly, as I would have loved to know more of Carole’s back-story and why she was the way she was – ‘I grew up’ is not always the answer. This was a show where I wanted a smidgen more of the main course before moving on to the dessert.
Rachael and George are both lovely in their roles and both Carole and ‘Santa’ are highly believable characters who you could easily meet anywhere. There is a nice chemistry between the two actors that gives a warm fuzzy feeling to the watching audience. The interesting thing was how much Carole’s story resonated with me. She and I have a lot in common – not only calling the main light in the room ‘The Big Light’ (it’s a Northern thing) and I could really identify with many of her personality traits. Equally, whether or not George’s character really was Santa (no spoilers) doesn’t matter. There was a lovely infectiousness about the character’s enthusiasm as he attempted to convince Carole he was the genuine article. Both actors had really good singing voices and I have to admit, whilst I liked the music overall, I did have a couple of favourite songs, including “The Big Guy’s in the House” and the awesome “Kill Der Bingle” which, considering its subject matter, received a very positive response. Musical Director Kris Rawlinson did a great job with his piano accompanying them from the side.
Overall, Another Night Before Christmas was a really fine example of a Christmas show. It has a lovely emotional story, that was gripping and entertaining and, at times, emotional enough to have me shedding a quiet tear. At the end, I really wanted the best for both Carole and Santa and left the theatre with my ‘bah humbug’ level reduced and my Christmas Cheer shining a little more.
Review by Terry Eastham
Another Night Before Christmas unites two of the biggest names from the West End, Olivier Award Winning Actor George Maguire (Sunny Afternoon, Godspell and Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story) and Britain’s Got Talent 2016 favourite Rachael Wooding (We Will Rock You, Evita, Jersey Boys) in a funny and touching family musical that is full of the spirit of Christmas in the intimate BH Theatre.
It’s Christmas Eve and for Carole, a 30-something, overworked and underpaid social worker, the Festive Season can’t be over soon enough! To her, this time of year is full of over-indulgence, over priced everything and unfulfilled hopes and wishes. Walking home from her office party she meets a scraggly-bearded ‘homeless’ man to whom she gives her bag of leftover office party food. Thinking nothing more of it, she settles in for her ‘non’ Christmas Eve for one – a truly peaceful and silent night. However, like the best-laid plans, they are rudely interrupted when the man from earlier appears in her flat . But who is he, a half-crazed burglar as she believes? Or could Santa Claus really have come to town?
ANOTHER NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Monday 28th November – Friday 23rd December 2016