Nothing says Christmas like a Dickensian winter. Throw in a few ghosts, a goose bigger than your average small boy and some parlour games, and you’ve got yourself a festive opening to silence even the most miserly Bah Humbug utterer. Even if it is only November.
November it may be but the London Palladium is already full of the joys of Christmas with the return of the jolliest yuletide musical around, Scrooge The Musical, starring Tommy Steele in his seventh turn as the leading grumpy man, with more grievances than friends and more gold coins than hugs.
Based on Charles Dickens’ beloved A Christmas Carol, the much-loved family show’s huge cast raucously dance, sing, laugh and sneer their way through the glittering big stage extravaganza. It may not be snowing yet outside, but inside the Palladium audiences are transported to a Victorian winter wonderland complete with a 20-foot Christmas tree, velvety costumes and chilly town squares with street sellers parading their apples.
In the hands of Steele, Scrooge is not so much a terrifying task master as a camp, moody old man who lives to make others miserable, spends his evenings counting his money and chuckles at grief as he scuttles away rubbing his hands in glee. Sitting somewhere between a pantomime and a traditional musical, Steele adds elements of the former as a comical baddy you want boo rather than hide behind your seat in quaking fear from.
What might have you shaking with terror however is illusionist Paul Kieve’s incredible stage magic. Spirits drift in and out of enchanted mirrors, props float magically across the stage and apparitions appear from before your eyes, soliciting many an ooo and ahh from the audience.
While Steele was clearly the incentive for many to take to their feet at the curtain call last night, the story’s famous ghosts, aided by Kieve’s sorcery, were another highlight deserving of applause. Sarah Earnshaw was a spritely comforting Ghost of Christmas Past, while James Head was all you could wish from the figure of excess, the Ghost of Christmas Present, with a booming performance Brian Blessed would be proud of. The best was kept for last, however, with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come a sinister cloaked figure, looming over the stage and dwarfing Steele’s cowardly Scrooge.
With its inevitable happy ending, Scrooge The Musical will no doubt be warming the cockles of many a family this Christmas, as they spill out onto the streets singing Thank You Very Much all the way home.