Thursday, 8 December 2016

Scrooge! The Musical

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

Ebenezer Scrooge is the quintessential Charles Dickens character, wheeled out once a year like fairy lights to brighten up the neighbourhood. Watching Philip Rham's vivid and well-rounded interpretation of the mealy-mouthed old skinflint in Richard Baron's seasonal revival of Leslie Bricusse's rollicking feel-good musical, it is clear he is also a man of our times, and a perfect representation of the state we're in now. Scrooge, after all, is an emotionally damaged loan shark who has made his fortune on the backs of the poor, and who exploits austerity as an excuse to pay his staff below minimum wage while hiking up interest on his pay-day loans.

The bustling street scene that opens the show having been ushered in by projections of falling snowflakes, however, is as inclusively cosy as the Christmas card brought to life that Adrian Rees' set so resembles. Even Scrooge's creepy presence can't dim such an image as he slopes into view, only to be forced to face up to his demons who left him broken-hearted and loveless. These are ushered in by Dougal Lee's Sideshow Bob haired Jacob Marley, with Tabitha Tingey making a tender Ghost of Christmas Past before Christopher Price's bluff Ghost of Christmas Present barges in.

Alongside Graham Mackay-Bruce's terminally chipper Bob Cratchit, these are the best drawn of Bricusse's characterisations. Not that the remainder of Baron's sixteen-strong ensemble augmented by a revolving children's cast and a ten-piece band led by Dougie Flowers are left idle in any way. Rather, they burl and whirl their way through every one of Bricusse's rabble-rousing confections with a muscular vim that captures the richness of Dickens' inner-city fable with life-affirming aplomb.

The Herald, December 9th 2016

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