Picture the scene… snowflakes falling over a grey street on a bleak winter’s day. It is Christmas Eve and the cruel, joyless money-lender Ebenezer Scrooge is exerting his miserable presence upon the poor people, those he deems the ‘surplus population’, of Victorian London. A tyrant of his time, such was the imposing character of Dickens' unsavoury protagonist his name became instantly synonymous with anyone possessing a miserly, mean-spirited nature.
Surprising then, that this ghastly man would go on to become the lead in one of the world’s favourite Christmas musicals. Leslie Bricusse’s vision for this centuries old tale of morality brings the transformation of Scrooge to life through a sensational score which includes the fantastic Thank You Very Much and I Hate People as well as the Happiness, Sing A Christmas Carol and December the 25th.
Pitlochry Festival Theatre (PFT), undoubtably now masters of the Christmas Show genre, has given Scrooge! The Musical its first Scottish outing, and in their usual effortless manner they have succeeded in producing a musical worthy of every five star review that has been thrown at it since it opened last week.
As always at PFT, the set is outstanding, with chimney pots stretching into the London skyline and digital snowflakes conjuring up an eerily Festive mood; with each careful twist of the walls, the skillfully crafted street transforms to play host to Scrooge's bedroom, Bob Cratchitts’s pitiful home and the wonderfully rambunctious Fezziwig party.
The sixteen strong cast dance their way around the stage in a kaleidoscope of emotions. Hatred, fear, happiness and love all spilling forth as Scrooge, brought convincingly to life by the wonderful Philip Rham, transforms from spiteful, vitriolic skinflint to a man beautifully softened by the visions of the Christmas spirits, the milk of human kindness and the stark warning of his old friend Jacob Marley (played by Dougal Lee) who appears as a wonderfully outrageous Beetlejuice-esque vision in white rags and chains.
The spooky special effects are masterfully executed and were the main topic of conversation between my ten year old nieces on the journey back to Perth; 'How did they do that?' will be ringing in my sister's ears until New Year! Their wizardry builds Scrooge fear to palpable levels and as he begins to crumble on his walk through time with Tabitha Tingey’s beautifully angelic Ghost of Christmas Past we almost forget that there is an ego to be tamed.
But tamed it is with the formidable Ghost of Christmas Present played by Christopher Price; the giant white beard, long flowing robes and booming, gregarious voice of the second spirit filled the auditorium with a teasingly-good, life-loving glee and pulled the audience together in a collective willing for Scrooge to come good in the end.
The score was sensational, with Dougie Flowers’ musical direction leading the eight piece orchestra who play from the rooftops on stage. Boisterous, uplifting and flamboyant, it captures every last shred of emotion written into Dickens' original Christmas Carol. Complimented perfectly by a chorus of powerful voices, rip-roaring dances and larger-than-life performances, PFT's musical high carried on until the last bow had been taken.
Rham and Price may have been our group's personal favourites but Graham Mackay-Bruce’s meek-mannered and generous spirited Bob Cratchitt, Lee Dillon-Stuart’s cheeky and affable Tom Jenkins and a courageous Tiny Tim performance from new comer Chloe Bloice were all wonderful.
In fact, not an opportunity was missed to spread the overriding message of hope, love and redemption – goodness knows, we could all do more of each to see out 2016.