Date 21st November 2019
Society BANOS Musical Theatre
Venue Banstead Community Hall
Type of Production Musical
Director Jeffrey Chinappen
Musical Director Sarah Higginbotham
Choreographer Roz Copeland


Author: Jon Fox

Producing this legendary tale on a very compact stage and using only taped music was always going to prove a challenging task for the visionary director Jeffrey Chinappen. But Jeff is indeed innovative, imaginative and put on a show that entertained very well indeed. Sensibly using the hall for entrances, exits and for staging company numbers, the effect was to bring the audience right into the action and feel almost part of the action.

An updated musical version, as this was, gave a fresh feel to the piece about a miser, who after being visited by four ghosts on Christmas night, reforms and saves himself from carrying a huge chain behind him for eternity. This Dickens classic is widely loved and has become a key part of the British psyche, especially at Christmas time.

A host of experienced players, well aided by a goodly number of child players gave the all-important real community atmosphere.   Set in Victorian London, of necessity most of the characters – many of them victims of Scrooge’s moneylending meanness – were poor and almost destitute. The costumes perfectly reflected the vast difference in wealth between the haves and the far more have nots.

The taped music did, on occasion, mean that a distinct pause was in evidence before the generally fine singing began. Sarah Higginbotham did sterling work with the company overall and was aided by a general absence of harmony singing.

Underpinning this vibrant production was the reassuring sight of Paul Bullock as Scrooge. Paul’s performance was charismatic, real and most believable and was the glue that held the show together. As the various ghosts visited Scrooge, his mood changed from terror to nostalgia and finally to stark terror once again as his own tombstone was revealed by the silent but finger-pointing Spirit of Christmas Future. Steve Clemo played this terrifying spectre with realism and doubled as the splendidly likeable Fezziwig and as Father Christmas himself.   Roger Gibbs was Scrooge’s first visitor playing Marley’s Ghost with consummate skill and also playing the mean-minded Joe the pawnbroker.   I liked the usage of several other, mostly children, ghosts all dragging their chains and the atmospheric effectiveness was very well done.   Marley’s costume was well done with the use of cobwebs and white gloves being effective.

The puppet with the puppeteer for Spirit of Christmas Past was an excellent idea, skilfully staged and imaginative directing. Well done to Deborah Gibson, the skilful puppeteer. Deborah also showed a lovely singing voice in the hauntingly sung “The child knows”. Impressive scene indeed! Alma Griffiths also did really well as Spirit of Christmas Present.

The Cratchit family were all excellent too.   Bob was well played by Fin O’Regan, his meek but determined Christian Christmas (non-ghost) spirit contrasting deliciously with his miserly employer.    Dickens’ famous lines were faithfully spoken and made a real mark in our modern bewilderment at how any man can be so mean and cruel, yet others could be so noble and kind, even though poor.     Debbie Carter too, as Mrs Cratchit, with her fiery tongue castigating Scrooge’s meanness was exceptional.  Tiny Tim, played with a presence far beyond his own tender years by Charlie Stewart, gave us all a lump in our throats especially his singing in “Miracles Still Happen at Christmas”, the final number in the show.

Jas Halsey played both the highly likeable Fred, Scrooge’s nephew and the young Scrooge himself.  Jas was another with distinct stage presence.

A number of young people and child actors enhanced this story.   Nicola Cleather as younger Scrooge’s fiancé did well as did all the other Cratchit children too – Alexis Cleather was Belinda, Jasmine Fry was Martha and Nancy Gethin was Aggie.   Sean Munro was Peter and also played Richard.    Other notable young performers were Zack Harding as boy Scrooge and Amy Cleather as Sister Fan.                                               

Roz Copeland, choreographer, set mostly simple routines, but the dancing was enthusiastically carried out and made overall a good effect.

The set was effective with the bedroom being top class, but on this first evening one or technical hitches and some obvious sound feedback, plus a few prompts were noticeable, but did not much distract from a generally fine performance.

Wardrobe was provided - and realistic it was too - by Luisa Puig, who made a fine job.   Scrooge’s splendid wig was courtesy of Judy Southey.   Lighting was well used and operated skilfully by Amy Worrall and crew.    SM was Ben Jeffreys who coped well with some difficult set changes.

I liked the spooky soundtrack used for Scrooge’s grave scene and atmospherically this production was excellent.  Singing was adequate to excellent, especially by Debbie, and make up by Kirsten Massingham and her team played a full part in the atmosphere.

Overall, it was a highly enjoyable, innovative and refreshingly different slant on this renowned Dickens masterpiece.