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London Musical Theatre Orchestra presents A Christmas Carol

Griff Rhys Jones as Scrooge in London Musical Theatre Orchestra's concert version of A Christmas Carol
Griff Rhys Jones as Scrooge in London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s concert version of A Christmas Carol

Last December, I wondered if A Christmas Carol The Musical in Concert at the Lyceum Theatre could become something that happens every year, as regular as the performances of The Snowman at the nearby Peacock Theatre each winter. Now in its third year, the London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s annual Christmas special (if I may call it that) is as engaging as ever. There have been so many theatrical adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novella in recent years staged in London – I couldn’t possibly claim to have seen even half of them – that one of the tasks for any and all of them is to make a familiar story come alive.

Here, most of the audience knows what is going to happen. Ebenezer Scrooge (Griff Rhys Jones this year) is a miserable man, suspicious of everyone and uncompromising when it comes to work and business practices. Empathy is not his middle name: on hearing that children like Tiny Tim (Tobias Ungleson, retaining the role for the third year running) could die in poverty – the National Health Service wasn’t set up for more than a century after the nineteenth-century setting for the show – Scrooge goes as far to suggest that it would do no harm for the “surplus population” to be reduced by default. Rhys Jones’ rendering of the infamous line, “Bah, humbug!” was very convincing: impassioned but not too menacing, striking the right balance between making it quite clear that Christmas is not something Scrooge celebrates and not throwing so much energy into being against the festive season that it detracts from running his own business.

This Scrooge seems to have given up before the Ghost of Christmas Future (Lucie Jones) has even done or said anything – he practically begs her to reveal what will happen. I trust it is not too much of a spoiler to say she obliges him. Before that, though, Cedric Neal’s Ghost of Christmas Present brings the house down with a particularly enthusiastic rendering of ‘Abundance and Charity’, dancing and riffing away (it made me think of ‘The Rhythm of Life’ in Sweet Charity).

For all the musicianship of the 32-strong LMTO, under the baton of ever-energetic Freddie Tapner, and a 16-strong LMTO Chorus, a couple of the best moments came when there was no music at all.

After Scrooge has his epiphany, Jonathan (Mikey Impiazzi), previously told by Scrooge to ‘shut up’ for singing something festive, can’t quite believe Scrooge’s excitement that ‘today’ is Christmas Day, and the look on the face of David Hunter’s Bob Cratchit after Scrooge wishes him a Merry Christmas was a sight to behold.

The soaring melodies (Alan Menken) are a pleasure to listen to. Given the concert setting, the cast’s dynamism is nothing short of remarkable. Rather different from its previous incarnations, and yet retaining a similar atmosphere of warmth and hope, the LMTO’s seasonal offering continues to go from strength to strength. This is an excellent way of demonstrating that there is so much more to Christmas than blockbuster movies and some advert about carrots and parsnips. I heartily recommend it.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

A Christmas Carol stars Griff Rhys Jones as Charles Dickens’ great miser Ebenezer Scrooge. Joining Griff Rhys Jones as Ebenezer Scrooge, is Lucie Jones (Legally Blonde / Eurovision 2017) as Emily / The Ghost of Christmas Future, Rosemary Ashe (The Witches of Eastwick / The Phantom of the Opera) as Mrs Fezziwig, Nicolas Colicos (The Producers / The Bodyguard) as Mr Fezziwig, David Hunter (Kinky Boots/ Once) as Bob Cratchit, Miriam-Teak Lee (Hamilton / On The Town) as The Ghost of Christmas Past, Cedric Neal (Chess / Motown) as The Ghost of Christmas Present, Jeremy Secomb (Les Misérables / Sweeney Todd) as Marley, Caroline Sheen as (Mary Poppins / Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) as Mrs Cratchit and Jon Tarcy (Titus Andronicus / The Sound of Music Live) as Fred Anderson.

Listings Information:
Dates: 10th and 17th December 2018
London Musical Theatre Orchestra: A Christmas Carol
Lyceum Theatre
21 Wellington Street, London WC2E 7RQ
Time: 7.30pm on 10th and 17th December with 4pm matinee on 17th December (2 hrs – including 20-minute interval)

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