A Christmas Carol: The Musical
Charing Cross Theatre
Reviewed by Jill Glenn
From the haunting opening notes of ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen’ to the exuberant feelgood finale, Talkwood Productions’ ‘A Christmas Carol: The Musical’ is entirely captivating. It had my foot tapping within moments and, moreover, it kept my attention from start to finish – which is no mean feat for the recounting of a classic Dickens tale that a] I know well and b] actively dislike. First published in 1843, ‘A Christmas Carol’ was an instant success and has never been out of print – the story of miserable Ebenezer Scrooge and his middle-of-the-night encounters with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come is one of the most enduring of classic literature. And that’s a double-edged sword when you come to converting the novel into another medium: it’s well-loved (mostly!) but so well-known that it’s not easy to bring freshness to this ideological, ethical and emotional journey.
However, Talkwood have succeeded in investing their faithful adaptation with both life and charm. It manages to be sweet and touching without straying too far into the realms of sugar and sentiment. The company has brought out all of the humour and lost none of the message. I was quite won over.
The plot moves quickly, with key pieces of background information carefully and subtly woven in. The music swings along nicely; it isn’t complex, and now and then the lyrics struck me as basic, but the energy and pace with which the whole piece is delivered easily overcome a couple of minor criticisms.
Scrooge: Stephen Emery
Scrooge is marvellously played by Stephen Emery, whose mannerisms and movements on stage had me believing him to be a far older man than his programme photo revealed. He’s suitably grumpy at the start, painfully self-aware at the key moments and his own enjoyment of his transformation from villain of the piece to universal benefactor is infectiously funny (and surprisingly tear-jerking). The younger members of the cast – Tiny Tim, of course, and his sisters, plus the infant Scrooge (a sorrowful little figure abandoned at school) and his affectionate sister Fanny – are cute and competent and perfectly in control.
The star of yesterday evening’s show, though, was Will Mulvey, brought in the previous day to take over the part of Scrooge as a young man when pharyngitis laid the usual actor low. To learn a substantial part in 28 hours is no mean achievement; to deliver it as though you’ve been rehearsing with the rest of the cast for weeks is astonishing. Mulvey occupied the character of Young Ebenezer so convincingly that only the preliminary announcement (‘The part of Young Scrooge will be played by…’) would have alerted the audience to the substitution. It is a tribute to the strong and solid performances of the entire team that they were able to absorb him so effectively.
This a perfect seasonal treat. What’s not to like about ‘A Christmas Carol’, musically or otherwise? I can’t possible imagine…
See www.achristmascarolthemusical.co.uk for further info.
www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk • 08444 930 650.