‘Scrooge the Panto’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by November 17, 2016

‘Scrooge the Panto’ is another traditional pantomime by Limelight Scripts (a UK specialist company), based on Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. This storyline has been given a fun Perth theme.

Because the original story was named ‘a Carol’, Dickens preferred to think of the book’s five chapters as being musical ‘Staves’. The first run of the book, bound in Moroccan leather, was sold for $45 a copy (today’s prices). Six thousand copies sold in a few weeks, however, even after seventh editions, Dickens made very little money from the book, being ripped off by a real-life Scrooge on the way. This had also happened to him earlier with ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’.

This lively and hilarious pantomime is two-and-a-quarter hours of guaranteed merriment. The show is being presented by The Darlington Theatre Players at the Marloo Theatre, Marloo Road, Greenmount every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening at 7.30 until Saturday 10th December. There are Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm.

 

The main set is the office of Scrooge’s Chocolate Factory, with shelves of books and pictures of the many lollies made there. Other vivid scenes include Jan Butty’s kitchen, a graveyard, and of course Scrooge’s meagre bedroom. The colourful sets were designed by George Boyd, and the numerous props provided by Lesley Sutton.

The full sized – 3-metre – flats and furnishings for each scene were changed silently and speedily under the supervision of Stage Manager Rob Warner, aided by his assistants David Bain and Belinda Beatty. The backstage ‘muscle’ was Guy Jackson, Adrian Ashman and Luke Miller.

       Author, Charles Dickens (Allan Lai) takes us into the office of a Chocolate Factory and points out the miserly owner, Ebenezer Scrooge (Richard Hadler). Since Ebenezer’s partner, the friendly and well-loved Jacob Marley (Timothy Presant) had died several years earlier, the work conditions at the factory have been getting increasingly miserable. The factory shop steward, Bob Cratchit (Peter White) has been paid minimal wages for decades by Scrooge. Cratchit lives in one of Scrooge’s crumbling houses with his dear wife, Mrs Cratchit (Sarah White) and their daughters, Susan (Molly O’Hehir) and Katy (Sophie David). They also have a weak and disabled son, Tiny Tim (Joshua White).

      Scrooge announces to his staff (Marjorie De Caux, Katherine Leevers, Shelly Miller) that they must come into work as normal on Christmas Day. The factory cook, Jan Butty (Jacqui Warner – fabulous) and her two useless, but hilarious assistants, Dough (Rachel Vonk) and Nut (Suzy June Wakeling) decide to cheer up their boss by baking him a cake.

      Just as he is about to go home, Bob answers the office door to two charity workers, Shirley (Jacqui Ashman) and Marjory (Lee Thompson), who are asking for donations for the poor. As they leave, Scrooge’s nephew, Fred (Blake Prosser) and his girlfriend, Elizabeth (Simone Willis) call around to invite Scrooge to their home for Christmas dinner – the reply is naturally ‘bah humbug’.

      On Christmas Eve, as the clock is striking midnight, Scrooge climbs into bed. Soon he is asleep. In his dreams, he meets the Ghost of Christmas Past (Ray Egan), who shows him the happiness that once surrounded him as a child. He sees his school friend, Jacob Marley (Caitlyn Moloney) trying to encourage young Ebenezer (Timothy Zuiddam) to enjoy himself. Then, years later as a young man, Scrooge (Guy Jackson) is seen spending his Christmas doing bookwork and trying to make more money. Even a visit from his childhood sweetheart, Belle (Natasha Smith, under-studied by Katherine Leevers) fails to make him happy.

       In a creepy sequence, Scrooge sees the people that he has treated badly, led by Head Spook (Tim Ward) and his Spook team (Jana Gardner, Lilly Miller, Niamh O’Herir, Sam White, Sarah Zuiddam) rising from their graves and dancing before him. (The first few seconds of this scene may disturb very young children, who have not experienced Halloween fun).

       The nightmare continues as the Spirit of Christmas Present (Suzanna Matla) appears in a beautiful white fur coat; she shows Scrooge the sadness and poverty of the Cratchit’s home. The Spirit of Christmas Future (Luke Miller) then arrives and demonstrates to Scrooge what a difference he could make to his workers’ lives.

       Scrooge goes into the street where he meets a paperboy (Jacob Clayton – very good) and asks him to buy a giant turkey from Mr Brisket, the butcher (Adrian Ashman), and then take it to the Cratchit household.

      Could life be changing for this wretched old miser?

 

 Choreographer, Rachel Vonk has done a wonderful job with such a large and young cast. With guidance of the experienced directors, Amanda Minutillo and Sallie Ketteringham, Rachel has mingled some of the performers amongst the audience, encouraging punter involvement. Well-rehearsed dancing and singing, accompanied by the catchy, perfectly balanced, pre-recorded tracks from Tony Perry, made specially to the directors’ requirements.

Richard Hadler was brilliant as Scrooge, insulting the audience and drawing plenty of boos and hisses banter throughout.

As Fezziwig, Luke Miller gave an energetic dance performance in the Gangnam style sequence. Little Lilly Miller, whilst very young, was faultless.

The singer of the evening was Tiny Tim (Joshua White), who must be congratulated on his beautiful rendition of ‘Where is Love?’ from ‘Oliver’, which he sang – unaccompanied – with great emotion and perfectly in tune. The sound designer for this fast moving complex show was Tony Perry, with Greg Rusha operating the desk. Great lighting from designer Mike Smale.

There must have been around a eighty costumes for this colourful show, but costume designers, Marjorie De Caux and Shelly Miller, along with their seamstresses gave us a real visual treat.

This really is a show for ALL of the family. Great songs, colour, jokes, slapstick and dancing, what more could one ask for? Another Marloo triumph.