A Christmas Carol:
**** 4 Stars
“ A Classy Classic Christmas Treat“
A Christmas Carol is a musical with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens. The musical is based on the classic Dickens novella of the same name. The show went on to become an annual festive treat at New York City’s Paramount Theatre in Madison Square Garden from 1994 to 2003.
It was adapted into a TV film in 2004 for NBC America before arriving in London’s west end at Christmas 2016 at the Lyceum Theatre and returned in 2017 and 2018. Its now back once more for Christmas 2020 for a socially distant run in London’s massive Dominion Theatre, well it was until the Pandemic put paid to the run-on December 15th.
The age-old tale of the Mizer Scrooge played with Craggy understatement by Brian Conley, who values money above all else is taught the errors of his as he is visited by 4 ghosts over the course one long night on Christmas Eve. A Tale of love, family, and redemption its message has never been more fitting for the restricted Christmas we are all facing.
This new production is a staged concert and features the London Musical Theatre Orchestra and 40 strong company. The decision to use the Dominion has paid off as they borrow the set from the resident production “The Prince of Egypt” wrapping the orchestra around the back of the stage and forcing the actors to use the front of the stage whilst remaining totally socially distant from one another.
Menken is acclaimed for his work especially the Disney Classics Aladdin, Beauty, and the Beast amongst others. Christmas Carol is not as strong as those but does remain nevertheless utterly charming and the music captures the child like wonder of Christmas crossed with the emotion of musical theatre.
Performances are uniformly excellent especially from the Principals, Conley delivers in style, he usually spends his Christmas in panto, but he has allowed his locks to go silver and inhabit a shrewd and emotional Scrooge but also knows how to mine a laugh from a line. Matt Jay-Willis (yes he of Busted) plays Bob Cratchit to wonderful acclaim he has a real talent that’s been hidden by the trappings of the pop world for too long. The same is true of former EastEnders Jaqueline Jossa as old hag/Emily/Ghost of Christmas Future. She has a rich strong voice and a beguiling honesty in her performance.
The ensemble cast are also excellent and inhabit the Dickensian world with ease. It does feel as though more could have be achieved from the staging, its often feels more concert than staged concert. That said the clever use of projection really opens up this classy Classic Christmas treat, and the audience can’t help but be whisked along on the emotional journey.
Speaking of emotion, the curtain call to a resounding standing ovation in the Dominion was totally deserved as Brian Conley said himself the cast feel lucky and blessed to have been able to perform for just 11 performances, they have proven that theatre can be done safely during a pandemic. They did this by working as a tight family fuelled by the love of performing. They will all be back in a theatre as soon as the time is right.
London’s west end once again sits in a calm silence lit only by the Ghost Lights, it is apt that A Christmas Carol should be the show to lower the curtain, whilst the Government may not care Dickens Tale has stood the test of time and theatre and indeed the Arts will too, Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today. This production while indeed live long in the memory until perhaps next Christmas.
Freddie Tapner and Gary England Present A Christmas Carol, Due to London entering Tier 3 restrictions all Theatres must close forcing the closure of Pantoland at the Palladium. Please note the reviewer followed social distancing and working guidelines from both the UK and Scottish Governments in the creation of this review.