Friday 15 December 2017


LMTO's A Christmas Carol at the Lyceum Theatre

A Christmas Carol is a staple this time of year. After reading Mr. Dickens and His Carol and seeing The Man Who Invented Christmas (based on the similar premise of Charles Dickens writing his famous festive tale) in cinema recently, you might think I'd be all Dickensed out, but you'd be wrong. When the London Musical Theatre Orchestra announced that they'd be reviving their concert staging of the musical adaptation this year I added it to my calendar before you could say 'bah humbug'!

Launched in 2015 by Principal Conductor Freddie Tapner, the LMTO is an orchestra that (as the name might give away) performs musical theatre shows. After a brief private stint they launched to the public in 2016 with a gala, swiftly followed by concert stagings (with an all-star West End cast) of shows such as State Fair and Honeymoon in Vegas.

They also performed a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol during the festive season, which was such a success they revived it this year. This version is adapted for the stage by Alan Menken, Lynn Ahrens and Mike Ockrent, and as an avid Menken fan (he has, after all, written the iconic music of Disney classics such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin) I was very intrigued to discover how his sweeping score would elevate an already fantastic story.

The book by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens stays faithful to the original novella, which details the greedy ways of Ebenezer Scrooge before he's visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come that show him his bleak future if he doesn't change become a kinder man. As soon as Robert Lindsay put on the dressing gown and donned the old-fashioned nightcap he was Scrooge; grouchy and mean-spirited to begin with but with a heart slowly thawing as one of the spirits shows him the terrible faith of Tiny Tim, the sick child of his clerk Bob Cratchit (a very fetching Michael Xavier), if Scrooge doesn't help him out.

Scrooge may be focus of attention in the novella, but in the concert staging it's the rich music that takes centre stage. It is a very pleasing score, filled with telltale Alan Menken melodies throughout (I'm certain I heard a touch of A Tale As Old As Time on more than one occasion). However, while the songs are beautiful the lyrics weren't hugely memorable, save Link By Link, in which Glenn Carter as Jacob Marley steals the show as he details how he got the chains shackled to his ghostly form. The music was suitably seasonal though and hearing it performed by a full orchestra – and such a stellar one at that – was a real festive treat.

And while the spotlight is very much on the musicians in this version of the production, let's take a moment to admire the stellar cast too. In addition to the aforementioned Robert Lindsay, Michael Xavier and Glenn Carter, A Christmas Carol also features the likes of Hugh Maynard, Lucie Jones, Sophie-Louise Dann and Gemma Sutton. An impressive collection of actors at any given time, and it was really evident that they were having a lot of fun performing the show. Hugh Maynard as the jolly Ghost of Christmas Present was a particular delight, as was Gemma Sutton's moving solo of The Lights of Long Ago as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

You may have seen A Christmas Carol before but never quite like this, trust me. If you're looking for your next festive fix, the LMTO's concert staging of the famous tale is the place to be. In fact, if you get a chance to see any of their future shows I highly recommend it. They're a hugely talented bunch and their concert stagings are great amounts of fun. Not only do you get to enjoy a full orchestra perform a show that hasn't been in the West End yet (or if it has, it was a long time ago) but they always have a phenomenal cast of well-known theatre actors too, making their shows a very special night indeed.

Photo credit: Nick Rutter

A Christmas Carol by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra is next playing at the Lyceum Theatre on 18 December 2017. Book your tickets here.

🎵 Listening to: Tom Fletcher & Carrie Hope Fletcher – Love is on the Radio
🔹 Mood: Sleepy

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