Pros: A professional and polished performance with great tunes and choreography.
Cons: For the musical-hating Bah Humbugs out there this may seem a little cheesy in places but let it go and enjoy the Christmas cheer.
Turning this classic novel by Charles Dickens into a musical should be challenge enough. To do it so successfully that it ran for ten years at the theatre at Madison Square Gardens in New York (capacity of 2,000+) and then to bring it to the somewhat more petite Tabard in Chiswick (96 seats) piques one’s interest before even entering the auditorium.
On a crisp and clear evening, the warmth of the Tabard was enhanced by a glass of the most excellent mulled wine. The set was Victorian London, complete with wafting fog and drifts of ethereal carols being sung.
We enter the story on Christmas Eve. In anticipation of the following day everyone is having a, Jolly Good Time except for Scrooge and his hard-working clerk, Bob Cratchit. Much to his disgust the miserable Ebenezer finds that everywhere he turns he is faced with festive goodwill. We are swept up in his curmudgeonly romp. Can there be such a thing? Yes there can. He retires to his cold, bare home where he’s visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley warns Scrooge that he must change his miserly ways and to help him he will be visited by three ghosts that very evening. Each ghost brings its own musical turn whilst narrating Scrooge’s life to date. It’s a sad tale but the message gradually sinks in and the old man sees the error of his ways in time to celebrate on Christmas Day.
Andrew MacBean as Scrooge is the lynchpin for all the action and he grounds the whole production. The cast of 12 morph and merge around him, into a variety of characters and choruses all whirling about the stage. Marley, played by Jaymes Sygrove, is splendid with his comic turn waiting for the church bells to chime and leading the song, Link by Link.
The delicate Grace Osborn, who showcased her clear vocals beautifully, represents Christmas Past. Swathed in layers of diaphanous grey with twinkling lights amongst her skirts, she also becomes the pretty bride to the young Ebenezer. Anthony Ilott takes the role of Christmas Present and leads the company in Abundance and Charity, which owes a little something to the smooth showmanship of Billy Flynn in Chicago. The ghost of Christmas Future is played by Elizabeth Bright cloaked like the Grim Reaper and backed by a chorus of similarly draped players singing Dancing On Your Grave.
No-one puts a foot wrong and the cast are all fabulous with no weak links. The show successfully treads the fine line between schmaltz and sentiment. The songs lodge themselves effortlessly in your brain and you find yourself humming them all the way home.
The choreography has to get a mention here. There isn’t a credit in the programme so I guess the original choreography by Susan Stroman was used and maybe adapted for the smaller stage. Either way it was a triumph and the cast must be congratulated for providing so much romping and reeling without appearing squeezed!
Altogether it was a wonderful performance that will fill you with jolly Christmas cheer. I took my partner along without telling him it was a musical; he gave me a Grinch face when he realised he’d been duped and yet he came out smiling, humming and wanting to get a Christmas tree.
Author: Charles Dickens
Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Lynne Ahrens
Director: Lee Greenaway
Musical Director: Inga Davis-Rutter
Booking Link: http://www.tabardweb.co.uk/menkencc.htm
Booking Until: 5th January 2014