December 2, 2020-January 17, 2021; 80min (no interval)
Chester’s Storyhouse production of this all-time festive favourite could more aptly be described as Scrooge - The Musical.
Courtesy of multi -talented musical director Jessica Dives, musical intervals link and progress the various stages of Dickens’s story of redemption. Or rather, in this Covid-conscious production, rehabilitation from social isolation.
The theatre’s intimate thrust stage is dominated by a four-poster bed which acts as a time-travelling machine, projecting Scrooge back into the past and on into a possible future driven by the Ghost of Christmas Past, (Ben Nelson in this performance).
The story’s familiar themes of social inequality, poverty and the need for charitable giving are well rehearsed – as is Scrooge’s now legendary "Bah! Humbug!" attitude to life.
Rehearsing the small ensemble of actors and musicians virtually via the internet has been a challenge for the cast and director Alex Clifton, but this fast-moving drama, interspersed with musical items, works remarkably well, given the range of roles each actor plays.
Matthew Ganley as Jacob Marley, wreathed in chains, delivers his message of potential doom to Scrooge and later reappears as a very frisky Mrs Fezziwig, one for the grown ups in the (masked) audience. Anton Cross as Bob Cratchit – a name Scrooge repeatedly and deliberately gets wrong – is convincing as a good man caught up in hard times, reluctant to judge his employer. Nora Lopez Holden’s ever-cheerful Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, is always optimistic for a change of heart in his uncle’s rejection of Christmas. And Natalie Grady’s Scrooge moves convincingly from avaricious moneylender to philanthropist in a stand-out performance by possibly the first female Scrooge!
Storyhouse has been innovative in bringing theatre to the people of Chester and beyond during the pandemic by finding ways of working within Covid constraints. Scrooge’s A Christmas Carol is seasonal theatre at its best. Go see – and see the programme here.