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REVIEW: Scrooge! - The Musical (The Loft Theatre)

It’s something we don’t see very often these days – a full-sized cast of men, women and children on stage in a large-scale musical.

The show may be Scrooge, but there’s nothing mean about this Loft production. Director Tim Willis and his team have gone to town – in this case, Dickensian London’s Cheapside – to bring it to vivid and sparkling life. It bustles, it shuffles, it soars to crescendo. And even if the company chorus work does not always reach operatic proportions, it all packs a tunefulness and likeability that are worth a dozen divas.

We have a glorious set design by Richard Moore which straightaway plunges us into a world of poor but mainly honest hard-working and hard-done-by folk struggling to ensure that Christmas can be a jolly time whatever a person’s circumstances. There may be the skinflint rich, but they can always be set up for ridicule and a laugh, thank you very much.

Striding above this tight-knit community is the eponymous Scrooge, superbly brought to life in the hands of Steve Smith. What makes him tower above the whole production is the subtlety of this portrayal. No panto nasty here, just a miserly old soul with what we suspect could be a long-buried heart simply waiting to be summoned from the vaults of past misfortunes.

He’s sour enough to dislike at first sight but there is a strong hint of credibility in a performance most closely equated with that of the great Alastair Sim in the early non-musical film.

But Leslie Bricusse’s breezy musical gives us more to enjoy. Despite some rather stolid songs early on, it leaps into life with the arrivals of the ghosts, most notably in this version an attractively ethereal Christmas Past from Nikki Cross and a boisterous Christmas Present delivered in Brian Blessed style by John Fenner. It’s only a pity their entrances are not more highlighted than by mere walk-ons.

We can savour a nicely sung duet by Zoe Chamberlain and Tom Corsi, which embodies a lost romance from Scrooge’s younger days, and Oli Jones’s portrayal of the put-upon Bob Cratchit as less of the traditional wimp and more a man forced to make the best of trying times.

Above all, however, this is a mammoth seasonal effort worthy of high praise in every department.

Peter McGarry

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