Jack Thorne’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol does not reinvent Charles Dickens’ festive fable but it delivers an enjoyable holiday experience complete with choral music, visual panache and a jovial, immersive atmosphere.
Campbell Scott’s Ebenezer Scrooge is made to see the error of his ways by ghosts of past, present and future. Thorne bulks up Scrooge’s backstory — including scenes of his abusive father and a fear of poverty borne of his father’s money troubles — to show how he ended up so withdrawn.
Director Matthew Warchus’ production, first seen on stage at London’s Old Vic in 2017 in a version starring Rhys Ifans, envelops the audience. With free pre-show snacks, actors roaming the aisles and everyone helping to put together a Christmas feast (with zip-lining turkey and aeronautic Brussels sprouts), the music-driven production tries overly hard to warm the cockles of every heart. But even the hardest of them will soften at the teary reunion between the reformed Ebenezer and his first love.
Scott successfully conveys Scrooge’s journey from optimistic youth to cold disregard and back again. It’s a perceptive, passionate performance. Andrea Martin, as the Ghost of Christmas Past, amuses with every sceptical “ha, ha.” But despite an ethereal a cappella number, LaChanze is underused as the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Designer Rob Howell has filled the rafters with glimmering lanterns. Waves of light radiate from them when the phantoms appear. However, the abstract nature of the design results in the characters knocking on “invisible” doors with irritating frequency.
While the design creatively riffs on Victoriana, the production is contemporary in spirit with inclusive casting including child actors with cerebral palsy who alternate the role of Tiny Tim.
Most successful in its ghostly moments, this is an amiable and atmospheric seasonal show.