"Mister Scrooge" celebrated 40 years of Young Theatre productions, and what a way to mark the occasion!
Mark Britton, who last directed a Young Theatre production 15 years ago, has delivered a musical of such charm and spiritual verve that anyone not present during its run has missed out on an event that sprinkled audiences' imaginations with memories to delight for a lifetime.
A musical is nothing without memorable music, and credit must go to the composer and lyricist, Alan Kingshott, whose numbers had the power to make my own car journey home an unselfconscious musical of tune-humming and whistling to nobody but myself!
This involuntary act was coupled with images of a cast that marked each ensemble number with the colour and quality that the music cries out for. Choreographing ensemble pieces is a mighty challenge, but when done expertly, demonstrates how ultimately joyful and wonderfully memorable a trip to the theatre can be.
Jess Templeton particularly stood out with her rendition of "Are there no prisons?" What a shame her dulcet tones were restricted to this one song.
The crowning glory was Scrooge himself, played by Ryan Witney. The multi-dimensional characteristics that make Scrooge so enjoyable to watch were expertly masterminded by the professionally-trained Mr Witney; miserliness, kindness, insensitivity, generosity, anxiety, joy and plenty more besides were emotions that Ryan Witney expressed with unabated energy. And when he led the ensemble cast and audience members into a combined sing-along of "Across the Hills", the candlelit finale brought a tear to the eye of many a-watching.
Another 40 years of the same please, and preferably not another 15 years before Mark Britton directs his next Young Theatre production!
Buckinghamshire Advertiser, Beaconsfield Advertiser and Bucks Examiner
January 22, 2004
As child, I remember my father frequently playing a scratchy old gramophone record of the veteran actor, Bransby Williams, performing A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. As I observed The Young Theatre performing a musical version of this classic of English literature my memories came flooding back.
I say, Young Theatre, but three of the cast distinctly bore the facial lines of maturity. I was later informed that they were originally young members who had returned to celebrate the Company's 40th anniversary this year.
Adapted by the founder and president of the group, Ian R Wallace, this production was a fitting celebration of their many achievements over the years, as was the enthusiasm shown by the capacity audience on the final night.
The story is well known. Visited by four ghosts, a skinflint old miser is converted into a friendly and generous old man. This adaptation used much of Dickens' original dialogue, and remained faithful to the original story line.
After meeting the whole company in two rousing choruses, the second of which informed us that Christmas is Coming, the atmosphere turned sombre as we met Ebenezer Scrooge, performed by one of the mature members, Ryan Witney, chastising his hard-done-by clerk, Bob Cratchitt played by youthful Chris Henry. Their interaction with each other was very realistic, and their duet, A Measerly Miserly Man, was skilfully performed.
Fettered by the chains he forged in life, the first spirit to visit Scrooge was that of his business partner, Jacob Marley, eerily performed by Peter Sharman. The ghost compelled Scrooge to witness the phantoms in a most atmospheric scene, created by the lighting and sound team of Mark Oldknow and Martin Ruff.
I particularly enjoyed Ben Crowden's appearance as the Spirit of Christmas Past, his sense of timing was especially skillful. He reminded Scrooge of his youthful relationship with the Fezziwig family, particularly with Belle, beautifully played and sung by Jess Pengilly.
The Spirit of Christmas Present was majestically performed by Jess Templeton who wore a red robe complete with an ermine collar. The costumes throughout this production were superb, and must have taken the wardrobe mistress, Bridget Coles, months to locate and collect.
The final heart-warming scene, with the swirling of snow against the starlit background, was very poignant, and although they sang of the coming of Christmas - in January - it brought the evening to a fitting close. Brilliant!