Scrooge: Review Roundup

Tommy Steele

The latest West End revival of the 1992 musical Scrooge, adapted from the 1970 film version of the Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol, has opened at the London Palladium to poor reviews. The creative team includes Leslie Bricusse (book, lyrics, music), Bob Tomson (direction), Paul Farnsworth (design), Paul Kieve (illusions), Lisa Kent (choreography), Stuart Pedlar (musical direction), Nick Richings (lights), and Ben Harrison (sound). The cast includes Tommy Steel (Scrooge), Barry Howard (Jacob Marley), Sarah Earnshaw (Christmas Past), James Head (Christmas Present), Halcro Johnston (Fezziwig), Tessa Vale (Mrs. Fezziwig), Edward Handoll (Bob Cratchit), and Louisa Maxwell (Mrs. Cratchit).

Dominic Cavendish (Telegraph): Bricusse’s version faithfully follows the outline of the tale but amplifies the materialist side of its message: Ebenezer Scrooge learns in the nick of time to stop hoarding and start spending. In Bob Tomson’s opulent revival … Tommy Steele’s transformed miser finally comes on as Father Christmas, dispensing gifts. … I don’t mind [Steele] in small doses, but alas you get a lot more of the former heartthrob than is easily stomached. There are innumerable unwrap-and-discard songs to endure and while our Tommy can still hold a tune his performance is remarkably one-note. … To be fair, he’s as much an institution as figgy pudding but could not a touch more plausibility have been added by staining those gleaming and beaming gnashers of his?

Lyn Gardner (Guardian): There is probably only one way to stop Tommy Steele from playing Scrooge … and that would be to cancel Christmas entirely for the next decade. It would be a small price to pay to save theatregoers from this cheery but dreary spectacle. … Leslie Bricusse’s music and book are completely inoffensive, Paul Farnsworth’s design goes for lashings of theme-park Victorian atmosphere, and Bob Thomson’s direction moves the cast efficiently about the stage as they deliver the entire show with the kind of fixed-smile sincerity. … It’s the relentless perky sweetness of the whole thing that wears you down, exemplified by Steele’s star turn. … His Scrooge is never prepared to appear unlikable and wants us to love him so much that the redemptive power of the story is squandered.

Rachel Halliburton (Time Out): Tommy Steele looks thoroughly at ease as cartoonish misanthrope Ebeneezer Scrooge. Those teeth look far too white and shiny for a Dickens character, but who cares? This is musical-land, where dazzling dentistry and tales of redemption always go together. … If you’re looking for a strong formula musical complete with anodyne songs and a little (but not too much) substance then this slickly executed package might be just what you need. … It is, of course, Dickens stripped down to the basics, and in his bicentenary year there are many more meaty ways of celebrating him. But as comfortable Christmas fayre, Scrooge: The Musical does what it says on the tin.

Paul Taylor (Independent): Tommy Steele is not the first performer that you’d associate with Dickens’s misanthropic old tight-wad … but you don’t have to wait too long for a flash of that trade-mark grin in Leslie Bricusse’s relentlessly bland and cheery musical version of the story. … [Steele] is still in his element working this huge house and his singing voice is in relatively good nick. But beginning with Christmas carols harmonized round chestnut-roasting braziers by well-scrubbed, theme-park Victorians and ending with Scrooge as a gift-distributing Santa, Scrooge is a show that keeps substituting gooey sentiment and knees-up Cockney jollity for the unsettling strangeness of the original. … “Are you looking forward to Christmas?” a lingering Tommy asked us at the end. Answer, in my case: slightly less so now.

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