Charles Dickens’ classic novel is given the all-singing, all-dancing treatment as Cardiff’s Orbit Theatre bring the 1994 musical A Christmas Carol to the New Theatre stage.
Running until Saturday, it’s a great show for families with older children. Considering Orbit are an amateur company, the standard of performances, costumes and scenery is really impressive. I went last night with my eldest two children and, other than a few moments my children found scary, we thought it was fantastic.
The musical score is written by Alan Menken – who has composed for some of Disney’s most famous films, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas, as well as musical theatre scores for Little Shop of Horrors, and Sister Act.
As you would expect, there are plenty of big chorus numbers, with the 60-strong local cast filling the stage. We especially liked the singing, dancing and lavish costumes of Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball.
Some of the themes in A Christmas Carol are quite dark – poverty, death, ghosts and so on – but the uplifting score and rousing ensemble numbers dilute this somewhat, making it a good introduction to the famous tale and life in Victorian London.
There are a few moments more sensitive children may find frightening. My children are familiar with the story, thanks to a great abridged version of the book we have, but Little Miss E, my nearly-seven-year-old daughter, still hid behind her hands when Jacob Marley (Scrooge’s long-deceased business partner, played by Chris Powell) emerged from the fireplace in Scrooge’s bedroom, clad in chains. Even more so when he was joined on stage by a group of zombie-esque companions. However, as with elsewhere in the show, the tension of such moments is broken with the musical numbers and touches of humour. In this case, it’s the catchy song Link by Link, with its Thriller-esque movements.
David Stephens plays the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge, a man so obsessed with money he has lost any sense of compassion. It would be quite easy to overplay both his miserly nature and his character transformation at the end, but Stephens – who has over 25 years of theatre experience – resists the temptation and really drives the production. He’s very watchable.
Hannah Rix, Matthew Preene, and Ellie Hoare all give strong performances as the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, who visit Scrooge at night, to persuade him to change his ways. Preece (pictured above with Stephens) in particular stands out for his cabaret style number, full of enthusiastic dancing and singing.
Special mention must be made for the numerous young children in the cast and chorus. Hugo Morgan plays Tiny Tim, the poorly son of Bob and Mrs Cratchit (a great pairing from Daniel Ivor Jones and Sarah Green, although it would have been nice to have seen more from the latter), with great confidence. My own children loved all the youngsters in the cast – although they were rather concerned that the children not only had to perform every night but also attend school too. “They deserve a big lie-in on Sunday,” said Miss E as we left the theatre.
The show is selling fast, but if you are quick, there are still some tickets available. It’s a great start to the festive season, full of enjoyable musical numbers and Dickens’ message that it’s never too late to change your ways.
Orbit Theatre’s A Christmas Carol is at the New Theatre Cardiff until Saturday 3rd December. Performances at 7.30pm daily, plus 2.30pm matinees on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Running time of around 2 hours 15 minutes, including one interval.
Orbit’s next show at the New Theatre is Dreamworks’ Madagascar: A Musical Adventure, Wednesday 31st May-Saturday 4th June. Tickets are now on sale.
Thanks to the New Theatre for providing us with review tickets for A Christmas Carol.