Review: A Christmas Carol, New Theatre

A Christmas Carol, Tuesday 29th November, New Theatre. Reviewer: Faith Clarke

On Tuesday night the doors opened to A Christmas Carol, performed by the Orbit Theatre group and directed and choreographed by Rob Thorne Jnr. and Nicola Boyd-Anderson, respectively. The performance was charismatic and warming – a step back in time to the Dickensian streets of London, perfectly accentuated by the enchanting red and gold interior of Cardiff’s New Theatre.

The timeless tale of A Christmas Carol has been animated many a time by both the film and theatre industries, each who have tried to capture the charm and authenticity of Dickens’ original characters, while simultaneously attempting to put their own spin on the story. This musical rendition of A Christmas Carol, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, was first unveiled on 1 December 1994 and was performed annually at the Paramount Theatre in Madison Square Garden until December 2003. Orbit Theatre Company certainly do it justice, offering a multitude of singing, acting and dancing, fashioned with vibrant and detailed costumes and a simple yet atmospheric backdrop.

The cast comprised of a range of ages, and this diversity reflected in the audience, too. The performance was neither suited more towards children nor more towards adults; instead it was inclusive of all ages, with characters both familiar to the old and enticing to the young.

Considering Orbit are an amateur theatre company, the singing was on the whole to a professional standard; with standout performances from David Stephens (Scrooge) Helen Randall (Emily), and Hugo Morgan (Tiny Tim), to name just a few. The dancing was enjoyable to watch, despite lacking precision in parts, though the eye-catching dresses and costumes compensated for this.

David Stephens was excellent as Scrooge, and shined playing both the ill-tempered version as well as the reformed Scrooge – renewed and full of repent after his moral awakening by the three spirits. Daniel Ivor Jones also made for an amiable Bob Cratchit, father to the heart-warming Tiny Tim, played by the promising Hugo Morgan, who, despite being among the younger members of the cast, has already performed three times with The Orbit Family. Phil Bond and Debbie Reardon Smith made for a charismatic onstage duo as Mr and Mrs Fezziwig, hosting a colourful and energetic Christmas dance. Mrs Mops, played by Sarah Bawler, also provided a performance full of comedy and eccentricity alike.

The set could have been utilised more, as much of it remained the same throughout, except for the odd prop change, and this felt lacking particularly in the scenes where Scrooge was visited by the three separate spirits. However, the illustration of Scrooge’s past, performed from retrospect, was very effective, and the Young Ebenezer (Joe Green) as well as twelve-year old and eight-year old Scrooge (Tom Herbert and Ben Osbourne, respectively) were successful in posing as younger versions of the present-day Scrooge. The three ghosts were also distinctive, as well as the well-choreographed spirits in Scrooge’s bedroom and the graveyard scenes. These episodes made good use of atmospheric lighting and smoke machines – making it if anything, a little too convincing for younger audience members.

The musical compositions were perhaps the crowning glory of the performance, as you’d expect when they are the work of the world-famous Alan Menken, who has composed music for many of Disney’s most well-loved films, including Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. These musical numbers were complimented and illustrated by the wonderful and lively lyrics of Lynn Ahrens, which gave a distinct narrative voice to a compelling musical backdrop. The Orbit Theatre Orchestra and Musical Conductor/ Director Rob Thorne Jnr. all gave impeccable performances that interwove the singing, acting and dancing of the show, tying the overall production together like a polished ribbon around a neatly wrapped Christmas gift.


by Faith Clarke