by Ian Giles
In 1992, when Leslie Bricusse adapted his 1970 musical movie Scrooge for the stage, he stuck very closely to the film’s structure, which in turn had stuck closely to Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. This makes sense as the musical possibilities of the original are suggested in a number of ways: its title, its setting at Christmas and the fact that each movement of the story is not a chapter but a stave.
Giving the leading role four stonking solos is one of the great advantages of this adaptation in that they enable us to chart Scrooge’s development from misanthropic miser to jolly philanthropist and Mark Hird is to be congratulated on exploiting these possibilities to the full. His transition from curmudgeon to joy-bringer is tellingly shown as he moves the character from an embittered, poisonous old man to a state of redemption almost childlike in its simple happiness.
Hird is ably supported by another strong Pick Me Up cast including Tony Froud (Marley’s Ghost), Olivia Caley (Christmas Past), Alan Park (Bob Cratchit), Rory Mulvihill (a sardonically entertaining Christmas Present) and Sonny Love as a heart-rending Tiny Tim (Kleenex alert). Froud brought a chilling gravitas to Marley and the scenes involving him and what might happen to Scrooge were really quite disturbing.
It is to the company’s credit that the principals do not hog all of the limelight: ensemble numbers filled the stage with bustle, invention and energy – ‘December The Twenty-Fifth’ was particularly well done – and Flo Poskitt, Andrew Isherwood and whoever played the silent and scary Christmas Yet To Come all caught the eye in smaller supporting roles. Excellent design and direction by Robert Readman and crisp musical direction by Sam Johnson complete the festive scene
One downside to Bricusse’s version is that it takes a tad too long to establish Ebenezer Scrooge in the here and now (or should that be the there and then) before Marley’s Ghost appears and the story really gets going, but a delighted audience appeared neither to care nor share this minor reservation as they cheered, stood and applauded loudly at the end. Also, November is a little early for Christmas festivities in my view but this show is only on until Sunday 1 December so if you fancy a pre-Christmas treat, book now.
And…“A merry Christmas to us all; God bless us every one.”
Scrooge is at the Grand Opera House York until Sunday 1 December
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