2011 – Scrooge

A FINE festive show – Northumberland Gazette – December 2011.

Scrooge was the perfect antidote to a dark and cold December night and the enjoyment started before you even entered the Alnwick Playhouse as a group of carol singers greeted the audience as they arrived at the venue. It added a special touch to what was an extra-special evening.

Adapted from Charles Dickens’ celebrated work, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge tells the story of Ebenezer, a stour, old miser who cares more about money and business than anything else in the world. Working in his office on Christmas Eve 1843, exactly seven years to the day that his business partner Jacob Marley died, Scrooge is immediately shown to be greedy and stingy and clearly says that he has no time in his life for kindness, compassion, charity or benevolence. He harasses those who rent from him for money and he pays his worker Bob Cratchit a pittance, despite his family woes and son being crippled. And he has a complete disregard for the only member of his family – nephew Harry – who tries to bring his uncle out of his shell. But most of all he hates Christmas. calling it humbug and trying to ruin everyone else’s celebrations with his miserly ways. However when Scrooge returns home for the night, alone, he is visited by the ghosts of Jacob Marley and Christmas past, present and yet-to-come. They unlock his heart and transform him into a man who takes pride in his community and workers and wants to help them have the best Christmas ever.

Alnwick Stage Musical Society captured the Dickens’ classic absolutely perfectly, right down to the period dress worn by the band and the design of the programme. Praise must be given to Lynne Lambert whose fantastic directing led to such a brilliant performance.

But of course it is the cast that puts on the show, and while those behind the scenes work just as hard and should not be left out, the actors and actresses need to be mentioned for making a fantastic job of a classic Christmas fable. David Wilson stole the show as Scrooge. I’m sure he is nice and friendly in real life but as the play opened he immediately portrayed the stingy, bah humbug character. His facial expressions, tone of voice and general demeanour captured the essence of Scrooge. And of course mention must be made of his singing, it was absolutely superb. With solos aplenty, duets and teaming up with the chorus it seemed that it was almost effortless for him to perform. When Scrooge was being taken through his life with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet-to-come, David managed the softening of character with real professionalism. As he saw what his tight-fisted ways were doing to Bob Cratchit and his family – including crippled youngster Tiny Tim, his attitude changed. And as the ghost of Christmas yet-to-come led him to the graveyard where Tim’s father was at the youngster’s grave, not far from where Scrooge’s own headstone sat, he realised the error of his ways and vowed to change. In the final scenes when Scrooge gives presents to the Cratchits and clears peoples’ debts, tears were brought to my eyes by such a poignant performance.

David Penny was superb as Bob Cratchit, he showed real family values, and wanted to make the best out of what little he had. His scenes with the whole family, in which Tiny Tim – played by Harry Clark-Thompson – sang a beautiful solo were so heart-warming and he gave a touching performance when placing flowers at Tiny Tim’s grave. Harry was adorable as Tiny Tim and proved to be one to watch in the future. Mr and Mrs Fizziwig, Alex Swailes and Kathryn Curry, were colourful and brilliant to watch, as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge looked on as the Young Ebenezer enjoyed parties and friends. Michael Pearson played a brilliant Harry, posh and proper, but wanting to have his uncle Scrooge’s friendship and care, Claire Snell was also great as Helen, Harry’s wife. The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge Harry’s Christmas Eve party and the old man realises just what he is missing.

Mention must also be given to Phil Gregory, who played Tom Jenkins, the soup seller. He led the street people during numerous songs and had a fantastic voice which reached all corners of the auditorium. Each and every member of the cast and band should give themselves a huge pat on the back for such a fantastic festive performance.

Sets were colourful and of the time and the fact that they were moveable meant less time between scene changes. And of course the costumes were once again superb – as with all Alnwick Stage Musical Society productions.

Scrooge is a tale and a show which makes the audience laugh and cry. It is heart-warming, yet sad but shows the true spirit of Christmas – that family and friends are those that truly matter.

I left feeling like Christmas had properly started and it is no wonder that every seat is booked for the rest of the performances. What a wonderful way to get into the festive spirit.


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