If like me you're a self-confessed loather of anything to do with Christmas before December 1st the idea of seeing A Christmas Carol at the start of November might seem something of a humbug. But by the end of this delightful production of the festive tale by STAMPS at The Core Theatre in Solihull it's hard not to have had a change of heart akin to Ebeneezer Scrooge’s.
There’s little that can go wrong when you have a story as good as this one to work with and STAMPS does a sterling job of bringing the classic Dickensian story to life once more.
Richard Bateman excels in the role of Scrooge, effortlessly transforming into a much older man and channeling the curmudgeon’s turmoil as his life is played out in front of him. It takes skill to make Scrooge's transformation credible and Bateman handles the character with great care so that the final scenes of his euphoric realisation are utterly believable.
Chris Cooper is usually the best thing about the productions in which he appears and this performance is no exception. His ghostly portrayal of a rather grittier Jacob Marley than aficionados of the story will be used to is the highlight of the show.
There's good support from Becky Wicketts as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Kathy Lovell as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and Zoe-Nicole Wheat shines too as Young Scrooge's lost love Emily.
A Christmas Carol relies on having a number of children in the cast and in a company used to producing adult shows this can be difficult. Each and every one of the youngsters in this production does the company proud. Particularly impressive are Will Wharton as Tiny Tim and Matt Alton as Young Scrooge who both possess lovely vocals. But all of the children bring a fantastic level of enthusiasm and energy to the stage which contributes hugely to this production's feelgood factor.
The chorus numbers are strong throughout too and Mr Fezziwig’s ball is the highlight, ably led with gusto and humour by Andrew Halliday and Helen Hunter as Mr and Mrs Fezziwig.
There were a few small timing issues on some of the numbers but for each of these there are moments where the sound is quite beautiful. The score is charming and Phil Ypres-Smith's band ably belts it out throughout.
In all this makes for one of the strongest productions STAMPS has produced in recent years. Congratulations to director and choreographer Rob Bateman (who also stars in the show as the Ghost of Christmas Present) and his team for a production which is bound to get audiences in the festive spirit early this year.
A Christmas Carol plays at The Core Theatre until Saturday 10th November.
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