Review: A Christmas Carol - The Musical, Norwich School

A Christmas Carol The Musical by Planet Theatre Productions: Carol-John Mangan, David Rees as Scroog

A Christmas Carol The Musical by Planet Theatre Productions: Carol-John Mangan, David Rees as Scrooge and Katherine Evans. Photo: Simon Finlay Photography - Credit: Simon Finlay Photography

Eve Stebbing enjoys a tuneful version of Charles Dickens' immortal Christmas story.

The first challenge with this rather nice slice of Christmas entertainment is to find it. The pop-up venue in Daynes Sport Centre is tucked away down St Faith's Lane, to the right of Ethelbert Gate.

Once inside, what at first appears a modest space is Tardis-like in its dimension. A decent lighting rig hangs over the purpose-built stage. We are greeted by a street scene of Victorian London, with brightly-painted shop fronts and glistening windows.

The band (under the baton of Leigh Sharpe) is in fine form, and works well with both principals and chorus. Given that the sports hall is not usually a theatre, it is hardly surprising that there are some acoustic dead spots - avoid them if you can.

Alan Menken's score is well handled by the cast. With up to 21 of them on stage, they create a bustling atmosphere and a big sound. Menken made his name with Disney favourites like the Little Mermaid and Aladdin and his musical of Dickens' classic was played for nine consecutive Christmases at Madison Theatre in New York. Who knows if now, it might become a Norwich tradition?

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This is far from the only version of the story that will be on offer over the next few weeks. From Simon Callow's new album, to Rhys Ifans psychologically-powerful interpretation of Scrooge at the Old Vic in London, there is much to tempt.

But there's something special about a live performance that's right on your doorstep, and this is huge fun.

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David Rees as Scrooge makes a highly convincing account of the role, too. His solid air and measured delivery are perfect for the old skinflint – bah, humbug!

John Mangan as Marley gives a bone-shaking performance, and Gavin Bromley is impressive in both the character of Christmas past and, that all-important linchpin of the action, Bob Cratchit – who must be sympathetic for us to get the warm feeling we expect.

But what will really pull the heart strings is the performance of the young cast. Darcie Mann as Tiny Tim gets my gold star.

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