REVIEW | A Christmas Carol

A CHRISTMAS CAROL 2023 (c) Jeff Busby

A Christmas Carol

Continuing the Tradition: A Christmas Carol Fills Melbourne with Heartwarming Festive Joy!

Reviewed by Brendan Daynes

The enchanting echoes of Christmas past reverberate with a revitalised spirit as Melbourne warmly embraces the return of the timeless tradition of A Christmas Carol. This radiant revival, has solidified its place as a cherished holiday staple, proving that the magic of Charles Dickens‘ classic tale not only withstands the test of time but, in fact, flourishes with undiminished splendour with each passing season. Under the masterful direction of Matthew Warchus, this production has become an annual ritual for Melbourne audiences, spreading heartwarming festive bliss in its wake.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL 2023 (c) Jeff Busby

Born seven years ago at The Old Vic in London, this rendition of Dickens’ classic has since journeyed across continents, gracing stages in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Broadway, while carrying with it the same joy, compassion, and commitment to social justice that is embedded in the timeless tale. Returning to Melbourne for its second year, audiences find themselves again being whisked away to the cobblestone streets of Victorian London, immersing in an experience that encapsulates the true essence of the holiday season.

The heart of any production lies in its cast, and in this revival, Owen Teale takes on the iconic role of Ebenezer Scrooge with a brilliance that breathes new life into the character. Teale’s performance is a masterclass in emotional depth, delivering a Scrooge who evolves from the miserly old man to a transformed soul filled with gratitude. His presence on stage is magnetic, grounding the production with authenticity and heart.

The ensemble cast, a powerhouse of talent, radiates energy that is impossible to ignore. Standout performers include Aisha Aidara as Little Fan, Bernard Curry as Bob Cratchit, and Debra Lawrence as the Ghost of Christmas Past. As the ensemble dive into the big numbers, the stage comes alive with infectious enthusiasm and camaraderie. Special mention goes to Alexia Abela, reprising her role as Tiny Tim, who brings charisma and energy to the character.

Some members of the band, including Natasha Fearnside, Lisa Reynolds, Kalina Krusteva, Cameron Bajraktarevic-Hayward, Benjamin Colley, and Stephanie Lambourn, feature on stage and contribute significantly to the magical atmosphere with their instrumental prowess. While their overall talent is undeniable, it’s the bells used as instrumentation for some carols that add a charismatic and engaging touch, showcasing the seamless collaboration among the cast. The chemistry and cohesion among the performers collectively elevate the production, transforming it into a true spectacle.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL 2023 Anthony Harkin, Owen Teale (c) Jeff Busby

The creative team, headed by set and costume designer Rob Howell, plays a pivotal role in crafting the enchantment of the show. Howell’s set, adorned with lanterns and bathed in atmospheric lighting, creates a visual spectacle that enhances the emotional journey of the narrative. Composer and arranger Christopher Nightingale weaves a musical tapestry that complements the storytelling with finesse. Lighting designer Hugh Vanstone skilfully plays with light and shadow, contributing to the overall atmospheric charm. Sound designer Simon Baker adds yet another layer to the immersive experience, with perfectly timed sound effects, including the opening and closing of imaginary doors.

The pre-show festivities, where cast members generously distribute mince pies and fruit, establish the tone for a communal experience filled with warmth and generosity. The band, playing uplifting instrumental tunes, adds to the festive cheer, creating an atmosphere of joy that permeates the auditorium even before the curtain rises. This sense of community continues as the story unfolds and the audience are not merely spectators but active participants in the festive celebration.  The inclusivity not only warms hearts but also embodies the spirit of giving, turning the show into more than just entertainment. It becomes a compelling force for good in the community, underlining the enduring impact of benevolence and the strength of communal spirit.

A Christmas Carol is not just a play; it is an immersive journey that captivates, inspires, and uplifts. The enduring appeal of Dickens’ story combined with the stellar cast and creative team makes this production a must-see for both newcomers and those returning to relive the magic. This incarnation is a true testament to the power of theatre to entertain, uplift, and, in the spirit of the season, give back to the community.

A Christmas Carol is playing at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the magic until January 7th, 2024. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://christmascarolaustralia.com.au/

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