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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Palladium Theatre Winter 2005-2006; revived Winter 2012-2013

Not only is he a prolific creator of musicals, Leslie Bricusse also has an uncanny nose for an adaptation, hitting pay dirt where so many others have floundered (you'll forgive the mixed metaphors)

His accomplishments include Harvey, Goodbye Mr Chips, Jekyll and Hyde, Victor/Victoria and, as presented here, Charles Dickens' classical tale A Christmas Carol.

From a musical's point of view, Scrooge must have seemed a daunting prospect since there's no romantic story, no strong female parts, and little chance of an eleven o'clock song. as well as a lead character who not only has become a byword for cantankerousness but whose salvation is achieved almost entirely by 'remote control' ' i.e. not much scope for show-stopping duets.

There are, however, lashings of dark humour and, in Bill Kenwright's production, flashes of illusion throughout. And, as Scrooge, Tommy Steele carries the show.

And so he should, since he has been continuously pulling in the crowds for almost five decades.

While he has also juggled successful pop and film careers, it is the theatre that has always been Steele's first love. So much so that this year he unveiled a plaque at the Palladium in honour of the fact that he has headlined more shows there than any other performer.

Rather than hamming it up, he mugs it up for the crowd (after all, no one is going to believe that chirpy, energetic Tommy is a doddering old miser) and so holds this uneven production together by allowing all the emotion onstage to focus through him, since his character gives meaning to every other character and incident.

Steele grabs each song as if it were written for him - a melodramatic I Hate People, a witty The Milk of Human Kindness and a bouncy Thank You Very Much. For such numbers alone, Scrooge deserves a healthy seasonal run.

The problem is really the rest of the show.

Of course there is a grand set, lots of suddenly appearing ghosts with lots of boos along the way, big chorus numbers and a huge cast that includes 16 children.

And yet, with the exception of an insanely OTT Barry Howard as Jacob Marley and the bubbly children of the Cratchit family, the cast fails to make any impression in any of the acting, singing or dancing departments.

They're not helped by tired direction and a virtual absence of choreography - hallmarks, sadly, of so many of today's West End musicals.

Nick Awde

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Review of Scrooge - Palladium 2005