REVIEW: A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Lyceum Theatre) ★★★★★
There are few stories as treasured and revisited as that of Charles Dickens‘ ‘A Christmas Carol‘, and for the second year the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO) issue a glorious revival of a classic. First published in 1843, the captivating tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s thawing heart simply refuses to lose its relevance to and adoration from all generations. So, after a vastly successful version came to the stage in 2016, LMTO returned by popular demand with two exclusive performances.
Scrooge is reborn in the form of Robert Lindsay, whose suitability to play this role is simply perfect for this comedic adaptation of Dickens’ infamous character. Lindsay is an actor close to my heart due to his long-running role as the father in ‘My Family’, a hugely loved sitcom from the early noughties. He is deliciously endearing as our misguided antagonist, sending ripples of glee throughout the audience with every burst of “Bah, humbug!” and personifying a suitably hardened yet subtly warm nature. He is well known for being a fantastically charming actor, and is (many were impressed to discover) also an immensely skilled singer.
The Lyceum Theatre is normally home to infamous The Lion King, so as soon as you step in there you know it has an excellent capacity for delivering grand acoustics – this is especially important when experiencing a performance so reliant upon sound quality. Conductor Freddie Tapner brought such vibrancy to the helm of the LMTO, I felt as if I were up there with him, infected with his energy. The younger performers were not in the least bit intimidated by the packed seats; we were absolutely at the mercy of their angelic voices and glittering eyes. The Chorus were equally as engaging, lively throughout and so full of facial expressions and character. I’m glad there was a lot of movement throughout, with both the main character performers and the Chorus moving to front of the stage to address the audience and keep our eyes dancing. Technically stunning performances emerged from an incredibly accomplished professional cast, with highlights being the gorgeous Lucie Jones as Emily/The Ghost of Christmas Future, and the commanding voices of Nicolas Colicos and Sophie-Louise Dann as Mr and Mrs Fezziwig.
I had a whirling mixture of goosebumps and physical rushes of emotion throughout a good 70% of this performance; the score was technically superb, the music filling both the Lyceum and our very bones with ease. The devotion behind every vocal performance, mixed with incredibly emotive music, pushes your senses to their limits. The creative team opted for subtle Dickensian realism, with atmospherically accurate sound effects of church bells and a grandfather clock echoing old Victorian London, with subtle lighting to reflect falling snow, alongside the warm tones for houses filled with love vs. the coldness of Scrooge’s home. This is proof that a West End show does not need to go over the top with design and effects: high quality content will speak for itself.
This is a refreshing step back from fully-staged productions of classic stories. At first, I admit I wondered how a mostly orchestral performance would hold my attention until the end in the absence of staged action – how wrong I was. It is enough and more! We are encouraged at the beginning by Tapner to listen intently and allow ourselves to be transported back to the Victorian era. The visual medium takes such precedent these days, it is wonderfully fulfilling to allow the LMTO to enthral your senses by starting with the ears instead of the eyes.
This time of year is always penned as being the best, but that isn’t always the case: by this point in the year we’re all a bit exhausted, in need of a re-set and still adjusting to the severity of the temperature change – LMTO has the wonderfully immersive ability to transport its audience back to the humble streets of Victorian London, absorbing the most important of all Christmas messages: give to others and spread compassion.
Never has my heart felt warmer upon leaving the theatre and stepping out into the cold – an absolute delight from beginning to end.
Reviewed by Laura Evans