Providing opportunities for aspiring and emerging actors is no doubt a wonderful thing. LOST Theatre has been doing exactly this since its founding in 1979 through its stage school and regular in-house productions. Their current production of A Christmas Carol – The Musical captures LOST’s ethos and the spirt of Christmas in all of its joyful, communal and tacky glory with a cast composed of both amateurs and pros, including children. Though the finished product is more like a child’s finger painting than the Mona Lisa, their joy in performing is undeniable.
Alan Menken’s 1994 musical is typical of its era – a big cast, barnstorming numbers and a commitment to musicalise the most non-musical of stories. There are some great ensemble numbers, though the mixed ability cast and unreliable sound levels diminish their power. Songs with fewer characters have more emotional reach, even though the sound still isn’t great. Choreography is inconsistent, with some songs tightly choreographed whilst others look like aimless wandering about. Co-directors Martin John Bristol and Mark Magill otherwise use the space well, though there is a fair bit of lengthy filler movement.
Though there is a blatant lack of racial diversity, the cast of 22 has 13 women and girls. The ghosts of Christmas Past (Katrina Winters), Present (Rebecca Westberry) and Future (Jessica Finn) are all women, and strong performers at that. Though Scrooge is the weak link out of the leads, he has a good voice in spite of a lack of emotion. Of the child actors, Kyrana Shea’s West End experience sets her apart from the rest of the kids, even though the tiny, Tiny Tim (Arthur Tidbury) is absolutely adorable. Richard Lounds and Toby Joyce are also excellent as Marley and Bob Cratchett.
The lighting and costume are the most glaring signposts of the semi-professionalism of the production. There’s an Edwardian dress here, a modern sleeveless top there, and a ruffled polyester blouse straight out of the 1980’s amongst the otherwise Victorian-ish garb. All the colours of the rainbow and smart-lighting gobos are used pretty much constantly, like a kids’ school disco from the 90s. It distracts from the performances and clashes with the undertone of the story.
Though A Christmas Carol – A Musical lacks polish and professionalism, it compensates with love for the work. This is great to watch, even if the final product isn’t notable in and of itself.
A Christmas Carol – A Musical runs through 31 December.
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