With the London Palladium re-establishing itself as the West End’s pantomime venue in the festive season, there are seasonal alternatives elsewhere in town. One of them is A Christmas Carol The Musical in Concert, which is a bit of a mouthful, but it is what it says on the tin. The 32-piece London Musical Theatre Orchestra, or LMTO to its followers, provides a relatively rare treat (these days, anyway) by performing a musical score with a sublime symphonic sound – and without a synthesiser in sight. Their principal conductor, Freddie Tapner, appears to have boundless energy, or at least a relentless one, enthusiastically driving proceedings with dynamic flair.
Robert Lindsay reprises his Ebenezer Scrooge from last year. He is utterly suited to the role – well, roles, for the chief antagonist is (figurately) reborn: he puts on the ‘bah humbug’ persona as though the script was originally written with him in mind to play the part. It’s not often, for instance, that a singing child gets told to “shut up” in such a way that endears the audience further to what was still, at that point in the proceedings, a miserable man. The concert format necessitates the use of the audience’s imagination, though there were moments when I wished I was looking at a fully staged production, just to see how a choreographer would have tackled the big song-and-dance numbers.
The storyline is straightforward, and while a synopsis is provided in the programme, in any event, the plot is graspable for anyone who just so happens to not have encountered the story created by Charles Dickens before. Indeed, this concert would be a good way to introduce anyone, young or old, to this famous tale. There are no major surprises (or even minor ones, for that matter) and the familiar happy ending is a springboard to a joyous musical conclusion to send the audience out with warmth and positivity.
The sound levels were well adjusted from my dress circle vantage point, and some imaginative lighting accentuates the compelling performances. Sophie-Louise Dann’s Mrs Fezziwig came across as a tad over the top; overall, however, the casting was nothing short of admirable. Most vocally appealing were Lucie Jones as the Ghost of Christmas Future, and Nicolas Colicos as Fezziwig – the former simultaneously haunting and powerful, the latter filling the auditorium with likeable authority. I was also impressed by Cameron Potts as Fred Anderson, with excellent stage presence and a pleasant singing vocal that I only wish we could have heard more of.
The child performers do a sterling job. Jonathan (Aaron Gelkhoff), a boy in Scrooge’s neighbourhood, drew much laughter from the audience in his astonishment at Scrooge’s change of heart. Sylvie Irskine, playing Grace Smythe, and Ivy Pratt, doubling up as Fan and Martha, are given opportunities to shine. Perhaps inevitably, though, Tiny Tim (Tobias Ungleson, reprising the role from last year) is given slightly more prominence. All, commendably, deliver their lines with clarity and confidence.
I certainly enjoyed it the second time around more than I did the first. I wonder if this production could become a regular seasonal feature, building on previous performances year after year, as The Snowman does over at the Peacock Theatre. A marvel and a delight.
Review by Chris Omaweng
After a sell-out five-star concert production of A Christmas Carol last year, London Musical Theatre Orchestra returns to the Lyceum Theatre for two performances only on 11th and 18th December.
The show stars critically acclaimed multi-award-winning actor Robert Lindsay (My Family, Oliver!) as Ebenezer Scrooge. He is joined by Olivier-nominees Sophie-Louise Dann (The Girls, Made in Dagenham, Lend Me a Tenor) and Michael Xavier (Into the Woods, Sunset Boulevard). The cast is completed by Glenn Carter (Jersey Boys, Jesus Christ Superstar), Nicolas Colicos (The Bodyguard), Lucie Jones (2017 UK Eurovision entrant), Rebecca Lock (Mary Poppins), Hugh Maynard (Miss Saigon) and Gemma Sutton (Gypsy).
Charles Dickens’ classic gets the full Broadway treatment by the award-winning team of Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast), Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime) and Mike Ockrent (Me and My Girl).
Cast: Glenn Carter, Nicholas Colicos, Sophie-Louise Dann, Lucie Jones, Robert Lindsay, Rebecca Lock, Cameron Potts, Hugh Maynard, Gemma Sutton and Michael Xavier.
The concert includes the LMTO Chorus comprising of: Paul Bradshaw, Christopher Cameron, Lucy Carne, Elissa Churchill, Beth Clarence, Rhiannon Doyle, David Fearn, Owen Gardiner, Austin Garrett, Barry Keenan, Laura Messin, Terri O’Ryan, Rebecca Ridout, Tim Southgate, Charlotte Vaughan and David Zachary.
Ebenezer Scrooge – Robert Lindsay
Jacob Marley – Glenn Carter
Mr Fezziwig – Nicolas Colicos
Mrs Fezziwig – Sophie Louise-Dann
Emily / Ghost of Christmas Future – Lucie Jones
Mrs Cratchit – Rebecca Lock
Ghost of Christmas Present – Hugh Maynard
Fred Anderson / Young Scrooge – Cameron Potts
Ghost of Christmas Past – Gemma Sutton
Bob Cratchett – Michael Xavier
Grace Smythe – Sylvie Erskine
Jonathan – Arron Gelkoff
Martha – Ivy Pratt
Tiny Tim – Tobias Ungleson
Conductor: Freddie Tapner
Director: Shaun Kerrison
Sound Designer: Nick Lidster for Autograph
Lighting Designer: Mike Robertson
London Musical Theatre Orchestra presents A Christmas Carol
21 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7RQ
11th Dec 2017 and 18th Dec 2017
Related products: You may be interested in the following – A Christmas Carol [DVD] Patrick Stewart (Actor), Richard E. Grant (Actor), David Hugh Jones (Director) Suitable for 12 years and over (this is not related to the above reviewed production of A Christmas Carol)