Panto may be the theatrical order of the day at this time of year, but if fairytales and singalongs don’t float your boat, there’s a wonderful alternative in this seasonal show.
A Christmas Carol blends the darker side of the festive season, reminding us of poverty, sickness and loneliness, with a suitably happy-ever-after ending to send you into the streets with a song in your heart.
A new musical version to the UK, it’s easy to see why this version wowed New York audiences for a decade.
The sung-through score by Alan Menken - best known for his work on Disney’s Beauty And The Beast and The Little Mermaid - readily evokes memories of these showstopping movies.
The choreography rises to the challenge of the constant musical score with ease, including highlights such as Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball and Abundance And Charity truly creating the spirit of Christmas with Broadway-like panache.
Also more than meeting the challenge of the show is musical director, Blackpool’s own Andy Mudd whose five-piece orchestra keeps pace throughout.
Paul Nicholas is excellent as Scrooge, and he’s never off stage as the tale tells his humbugging beginings to becoming a man reformed.
Beyond the leading man for A Christmas Carol, director Kyle Davies and producer Peter Frosdick have pulled together a fantastic ensemble company - which this production relies upon thanks to the numerous cameo supporting roles that crop up throughout, including a team of local youngsters in various roles.
Particularly good are the spirits of Marley, and Christmasses Present and Past, Christopher Howell, Tom Bright and Corrine Priest respectively.
It’s Marley’s number Link By Link which really gets the show going after a few scene-setter songs, with marvellous magic and mayhem ensuing as he tells Scrooge the errors of his ways.
While another local Tom Bright, best known as compere for Legends at Sands Venue on the Prom, is in very impressive vocal form as a showbizzy Ghost of Christmas Present, Corrine is a delightfully cute and cheeky ‘Past’.
And in an unusual but suitably spooky move, the Ghost of Christmas Future makes great use of the Opera House’s huge stage with a puppet spectre looming over all as Scrooge faces up to the life he’s yet to lead.
Charles Dickens’ story is well enough known that the happy ending comes as no surprise, but the warm-hearted conclusion to A Christmas Carol really is rather ‘cool’ too.
A Christmas Carol makes a perfect change to panto - for those who are perhaps a little long in the tooth for that genre’s general daftness, or don’t have the excuse of introducing children to the theatre, while also catering well for families in keeping the tale light-hearted.
* Until January 3.