Review: Scrooge the Musical. Curve Theatre Leicester.

Holding back a lachrymal tear of personal compassion, frustrated actor and successful author Mr Charles Dickens, once announced “It is a joke in my home that generosity on the stage always unmans me, and that I invariably begin to cry whenever anybody on the stage forgives an enemy or gives away a pocket book! It is good to be generous and good to be open-handed, and that is a right and good thing for society, through its various gradations of stall, boxes, pit and gallery, where they come together with but one great, beating, responsive heart among them to learn such a truth together. In showing ourselves and our kind in a thousand changing forms of humour and fancy, the actors – all the solemn humbugs on the earth to the contrary notwithstanding – render a high and inestimable service to the community every night of their lives.”

If Dickens were alive today, would he be weeping tears of joy and sympathy in the Curve theatre stalls during their current production of Scrooge the Musical? Tears perhaps caused by the generosity of the fine actors on the stage, the spectacle, the brightness and energy of the ensemble in their musical numbers, the humour abundant in this family friendly show? Would Dickens be a  virtual waterfall of lachrymation issuing forth affected by the life lessons learned by his own miserly creation Ebenezer Scrooge? You bet your dancing boots he would! Full floods of happy tears would spring forth from Charles Dickens. He’d love it!

Beware though! There is a warning to behold that all audience members such take serious heed of; namely that Scrooge the Musical is so damn chock full of catchy songs that they will be humming ‘Thank You Very Much!’ ‘Father Christmas’ ‘December the 25th‘ ‘ The Minster’s Cat’ ‘Make The Most of This World’ ‘I Like Life’ and ‘I Hate People’ until Christmas 2018 and beyond! And that is not humbug!

In Lesley Bricusse’s Scrooge the Musical, we find that his astute pen reflects and expresses Dickens’ own love of language in clever lyrical forms. From the song ‘I Hate People’ we delight in Scrooge’s grumbles against humanity:

‘Scavengers and sycophants and flatterers and fools
Pharisees and parasites and hypocrites and ghouls
Calculating swindlers, prevaricating frauds
Perpetrating evil as they roam the earth in hordes
Feeding on their fellow men
Reaping rich rewards
Contaminating everything they see
Corrupting honest men like me…

In his continuing exploratory hate of humankind Mr Scrooge proposes that ‘people are despicable creatures, loathsome inexplicable creatures, good-for-nothing kickable creatures…’

Assuming a familiarity with the popular story, we as audience members are soothed by knowing the outcome of Scrooge’s fate. But the delight is contained in sharing that journey with him, and those affected by his tortured soul, on stage. And, on the Curve main stage a veritable delight it surely is.

Curve Theatre’s curmudgeonly Scrooge is played as an essentially comical, lovable but sad personage by the immensely likeable and talented Jasper Britton. Britton  possesses a fine singing voice and adds his superb dramatic skills to create a very believable three dimensional Scrooge.. Fear not! This is no Scrooge to be terrified of. However, the life lessons Scrooge learns are as appropriate today as they were in the mid 1840s when the redemptive story of A Christmas Carol was originally penned. An essential need for generosity is proposed and a love for life and human kindness show themselves as key ingredients in this succulently rich ‘family friendly’ plum pudding of a show!

        a succulently rich ‘family friendly’ plum pudding of a show!

Expansively and expressively directed by Nikolai Foster in close creative co-operation with international choreographer Stephen Mear, Curve’s festive offering of Scrooge the Musical is decidedly a highly spirited and joyous affair that gladdens the heart. The twenty-one adult members of the professional cast are joined on stage each night by a number of very talented Young Curve actors. The combined ensemble blend seamlessly. It’s dramatic, joyous, deeply thoughtful in parts and its redeeming nature sends us home singing and dancing with merriment in our souls! Fellow creatures, and call this humbug if you wish, we at East Midlands Theatre declare that it would be sin to miss it!

Scrooge the Musical is grandly aided throughout by Michael Taylor’s ingenious and industrial set design, terrific costumes, Ben Cracknell’s atmospheric and often eerie lighting design, the sparkling new orchestrations by Sarah Travis, sound designer Tom Marshall’s wondrous aural effects, some fab illusions by consultant Scott Penrose and startling video projection by Douglas O’Connell. Oh and then there are the actors.

Anton Stephans is brilliantly bonkers as The Ghost of Christmas Present, Karen Mann is forebodingly ghoulish as the spectre of Marley and Sharan Phull beguiles as a very human Ghost of Christmas Past. Not surprisingly Taylor Walker (delightful as Topper) is unrecognisable and very scary as The Ghost of the Future.

Darren Bennett and Rachel Stanley delight as the generous and joyous Mr and Mrs Fezziwig whilst Sean Lopeman (Dick Wilkins) and Nathanael Landskroner (Nephew Harry and Young Scrooge) demonstrate the benefits of enjoying life and especially Christmas to Jasper Britton’s grumpy Scrooge.

Hollie Taylor and Bree Smith are brilliantly stalwart as the charity seeking Jocelyn Jollygoode and Henrietta Harty. Lauren Stroud is charming as young Scrooge’s love Isabel. ‘Happiness’ performed by Young Ebenezer, Isabel and Scrooge tugs at the heartstrings.

Of course the story wouldn’t be complete without the hard up Cratchit family. Joe Maxwell (Bob Cratchit) alongside Lara Denning (Mrs Cratchit) and all the young Cratchit’s including Tiny Tim (played at various perfs by Danny Freeman, Harry Hincks and Jode Hughes) are a perfect team battling against all that the cruel Victorian world throws at them, yet retaining an optimism and acceptance of their lot in life. If one could adopt a whole lovable family we would be at the front of the queue tonight to swoop up this adorable Cratchit family.

Danny Boy – Hatchard delights as the very much in debt Tom Jenkins and his and the ensemble’s renditions of ‘Thank You Very Much’ and ‘The Milk of Human Kindness’  are two of the many song and dance highlights of the show.

The talents of Nia Jermin (Bess) Chantell Bellew (Bissett) Matthew Caputo (Pringle) Sophie Caton (Mrs Dilber) Ben Redfearn (Mr Carstairs) Natalie Woods (Miss Dilber) complete the adult cast. All of the hard working cast are five star song and dance excellence personified. The quality singing throughout has a great energy, verve and is freshly enthusiastic. This sterling production of Scrooge the Musical gains considerably from choreographer Stephen Mear’s vibrantly stylised dance routines and movement.

Very Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Phil Lowe

Scrooge the Musical runs at Curve until Sunday 7th January 2018. Don’t miss it!

Photo credits: Pamela Raith.

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