‘Scrooge’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by December 15, 2016

‘Scrooge’ is a light-hearted, musical play based on Charles Dickens’ 1843 book, ‘A Christmas Carol’, with the music, lyrics and book all written in 1976, by James Leisy. This version of ‘Scrooge’ is devised around the 1970 screenplay.

This Old Mill, 90-minute production can be seen at the Old Mill Theatre, Mends Street in South Perth. This curtain up at 7.30 pm each evening until Saturday 16th December. Tickets are scarce.

 

The stage has two sets; on one side is the office of Scrooge and Marley – the flats were a grubby brown – and on the other side of the stage is the Cratchit’s kitchen. Centre stage became Scrooge’s meagre bedroom.

The set was designed by Justin Friend, and then built by Justin, Les Hart and Phil Barnett. The production manager, Sheila Wileman provided most of the antique props. The copyright owner supplied the orchestral music on CD, but this was melodiously enhanced by the choral accompaniment provided by the talented cast in the wings – well, trained by the musical director, Justin Freind.

Stage manager, Megan Burley, had a cast of thousands to control, but they entered and exited smoothly, from both the wings and the rear of the auditorium. This worked very well and added to the audience involvement. The set changes were smooth and unobtrusive.

The operation of the sound effects (Nina O’Doherty) and smoke machine were faultless.

John Woolrych’s lighting design was one of his best yet. Real candles lighted Scrooge’s office and the accompanying glow was of perfect tone and level. There was also good selective lighting on the soloist singers. One costume had small blue lamps built into the seams, well worth the extra work. The limelights of the era were replaced by two strips of LEDs that gave a chilling effect to some of the dream sequences. Ian O’Doherty faultlessly operated the lighting.

 

       The miserly owner, Ebenezer Scrooge (Barry Park), has paid Bob Cratchit (Craig Menner) minimal wages for decades. Ebenezer’s partner, the friendly and well-loved Jacob Marley died several years earlier. Poor Bob has also to help the two trainee accountants, Thomas and Richard (Blake Jenkins, Cooper Jenkins – great soft shoe shuffle) learn the trade. When Scrooge announces to his staff that they must come into work as normal on Christmas Day, the locals, Harold (Ashley Garner) and his friends (Cassidy Pemberton), Topper (Bonnie Kerslake) and Polly (Eliza Malcolm) are horrified and discuss Scrooge’s meanness.

       Bob lives in a decaying house with his dear wife, Mrs Cratchit (Hayley Grant) and their daughters, Belinda (Tahlia Menner) and Martha (Atira Shack). They also have a weak and disabled son, Tiny Tim (Orlando Borg – beautiful solo).

       Bob answers the office door to two charity workers, (Harriett Du Pont, Jenny Trestrail), who are asking for donations for the poor. As they leave empty handed, Scrooge’s nephew, Fred (George O’Doherty) and his girlfriend, Emily (Claudia Sciano) call around to invite Scrooge to their home for Christmas dinner – the reply is ‘bah humbug’.

On Christmas Eve, as the clock is striking midnight, Scrooge climbs into bed. Soon he is asleep. In a frightening dream sequence, he sees his old partner, Jacob Marley (Grant Malcolm – fabulous) wrapped in chains. Then he meets the Ghost of Christmas Past (Matilda Jenkins – beautiful voice), who shows him the happiness that once surrounded him as a schoolchild (Bradley Paulet) with young friends, Fan (Tashie Baker) and Wilkins (Jamie Buttery). Then, years later as a young man, Scrooge (Felix Malcolm) is seen spending his Christmas doing bookwork with his old kind boss, Fezziwig (David Major). Even a visit from his childhood sweetheart, (Jade Gibbons) fails to make him happy.

       The nightmare continues as the ebullient Spirit of Christmas Present (Nelson Clemente – more of a bubbly champagne than a ‘spirit’) appears as a wild Spanish dancer; with castanets clicking, he shows Scrooge the sadness and poverty of the Cratchit’s home, and the mercenary local pawnbroker (Wesley Williams) ripping off poor Mrs Dilbert (Georgia Dixon).

      Then the 3 metre tall Spirit of Christmas Future (Grant Malcolm), draped in black with a skeletal skull and arms, arrives and demonstrates to Scrooge what a difference he could make to his workers’ lives.

      Could life be changing for this wretched old miser?

 

This the year of the Scrooge. This version, directed by Justin Freind, is different to all of the others. It is filled with superb singing, fun and at times frightening ghosts. With a young cast, age range from eight to eighteen, the show sparkled and bounced along at a perfect pace. The numerous costumes were all carefully considered for the period and beautifully tailored by Jenny Prosser. Michelle Buttery’s makeup design was excellent, with Marley’s ghost looking particularly creepy.

With such a large cast, the importance of knowing how to move around the stage without bumping and causing chaos had been well learned. There were some novel touches, such as the white-faced ghosts wandering around Scrooge’s bedroom and then the audience.

Barry ‘Scrooge’ Park has been nominated this year for a Finley, and here he is with great characterisation and a soft, mellifluous voice, again proving why he was nominated.

An exceptional cast, I looked for the ensemble member who may nod off or be distracted – not even one, everybody was focused and dedicated.

Justin Freind’s shows are always quality, and this is another wonderful show to add to his résumé.