Given the recorded music used in this production of A Christmas Carol, it wouldn’t, I would have thought, have been too difficult to turn the volume down in order for the performers to be heard properly, and/or turn their microphones up. I found myself having to strain to hear what was being sung more often than not. Perhaps I quote the off-Broadway revue, Forbidden Broadway too often, but I can’t resist another lyric or two here.
This, a succinct enough summary of what happened sound-wise, is to the tune of ‘At The End of the Day’ from Les Miserables: “They [the audience] can’t wait to get back home / And to read the libretto in bed / To decipher just what went on, and what was said / Better read the synopsis, at the end of the play.”
Fortunately, I had seen another production of the same musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens novella just a few days before seeing this one, so I was reasonably au fait with proceedings. Even so, to be forced to rely on prior knowledge of the show was rather disappointing.
At least the period costumes were excellent, and the lighting design flawless, with (as far as I could deduce) not a single cue missed. Scrooge (Piers Garnham) could have had more aplomb, and his initial dismissiveness of any and all things Christmas could have been driven with more passion: his stance of cold indifference just didn’t cut it for me, though his later transformation from heart of stone to heart of flesh was heartily convincing.
The set did not always sufficiently change from scene to scene to fully determine scene location. Video projections helped to an extent, particularly in the second half. But otherwise, this meant a dependence on the music and lyrics, which brings us back to the issue of muffled sound. The scene changes themselves were very smooth, allowing this largely sung-through show to proceed at a consistently steady pace.
The choreography was, for the most part, effective and enjoyable, coming into its own during the aptly-titled ‘Mr Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball’. Nonetheless, that number is an example of the narrative being strung out – in the old-style song and dance numbers of this nature, the story comes to a standstill, and however lively the dancing gets, there’s no getting away from the long and the short of it being that the longer the routine goes on, the longer the audience is sat there waiting for the number to finish, so that the story can continue.
The Ghost of Christmas Present (Rebecca Westberry) had a strong vocal and stage presence. ‘Scrooge at 18’ (Joe Brown) and Emily (Natalie Morgan) had lovely voices, while three children, Arthur, Ella and Oli Tidbury (presumably related) shared six roles between them – it was, well, interesting to observe how they seemed to enjoy playing certain roles considerably more than others. This production does well to adapt from the show’s original New York run, which had a ridiculously large cast and ensemble of over 100 people.
With a more than manageable and family-friendly two-hour running time, including interval, here’s a show with a reminder that cannot be repeated often enough in the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, to recall more fruitful purposes to the festive season that money cannot buy. And I mustn’t be too humbug-like about it – in the end, despite the considerable sound mixing issues, it still sent most of the audience out with a generous dose of Christmas cheer. This is a determined and spirited attempt at bringing such a well-known story to life in musical form.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Charles Dickens’ classic gets the full Broadway treatment by the Broadway team of Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid,), Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime, Seussical) and Mike Okrent (Crazy For You, Me and My Girl).
Follow Scrooge on his journey with the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as he searches for the true meaning of Christmas in this classic transfixing journey. Suitable for all the family, this energetic and fun musical is the perfect feel good theatre show.
A Christmas Carol The Musical