REVIEW: A Christmas Carol (Lyceum Theatre) ★★★★★
There are some questionable shows around this season, some ingenious, some hilarious, some just plain bazaar. The commercialisation of Christmas makes for a competitive time as each theatre vies for you to spend your family outing, and your money, with them. Sometimes though, bells and whistles – or tinsel, puppets, animals, strippers… whatever gets you in the spirit – aren’t necessary in order to stand head and shoulders above any Christmas show in London.
A Christmas Carol magically performed by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO) and a ravishing cast, precisely proves the above. This classical concert held at the Lyceum Theatre, reenacts the musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens.
The nature of a concert often undermines the characterisation of a musical; that without room to move, let alone dance, the dynamics of the form are lost. In this piece, however, this is far from true. In fact, nothing is lost at all, only intelligently reinterpreted. Despite the majority of the stage being taken up by the 35+ instruments, the cast weave effortlessly from microphone to microphone in a manner which is polished and spunky under Shaun Kerrison’s direction. There are even sprinklings of neat choreography which result in the ‘Fezziwig Annual Christmas Ball’ emulated as vibrantly as ever.
The cast includes Griff Rhys Jones as Scrooge, David Hunter as Bob Cratchit, Jeremy Secomb as Jacob Morely as well as Lucie Jones, Nicholas Colicos, Rosemary Ashe and Caroline Sheen in various supporting roles. It is rarer than one thinks that every cast member in a musical is stunning both vocally and dramatically, particularly at Christmas when celebrities are injected into a show void of training. However, this ensemble, put together by Jim Arnold CDG, is quite frankly flawless.
Rhys Jones as Scrooge is a delight; cutting, tender and committed. Stand out performances from Cedric Neal and young Mikey Impiazzi ice the show with genuinely hilarious moments. The development of every character is gentle but grand and oh so believable. Each actor wholeheartedly throws themselves into the role with all the professionalism which got them on the vast Lyceum stage in the first place.
There is a precision which flows through an orchestra which musical theatre sometimes forgets. When actors are suddenly thrust unto such a world, respect for the source material flows in abundance. This quality allows the audience to relax and drench themselves in the magnificence of the music – which is nothing short of enchanting.
LMTO started back in 2015 by young graduate Freddie Tapner and has matured into a superb company who make theatre for the right reasons. Their policy is strict on giving back, reserving 50% of spaces in their monthly ‘play-throughs’ at Bishopsgate Institute to young developing musicians. Additionally, the concert supports research into life-limiting blood conditions after Tapner was diagnosed with Leukaemia at 16.
I can’t rave loudly enough about LMTO. Unfortunately the run of A Christmas Carol has ended but I implore you to keep a close eye on what this company is doing next and grab a ticket before they sell like hot mince pies.
Reviewed by Nicole Darvill-Batten
FOLLOW WEST END WILMA