Tis’ the season. No, not the festive season but the season of endless productions of A Christmas Carol. This year, London is filled to the brim with a variety of different versions of the classic play which leads audiences to wonder, which one is the best?

Credit: Manuel Harlan

The story of A Christmas Carol is one that everyone is familiar with, so how can producers make their version new and exciting? Well, for this production, it is adding in a Tennessee twist, along with the household name of Dolly Parton. With the iconic Victorian England atmosphere gone and replaced with southern USA charm during the height of the depression, audiences sit eagerly awaiting the show to begin. The two different eras have a variety of similar qualities, as stated by David H. Bell, the book-writer of this adaptation. The poor were a problem to be dealt with and the rich got richer, during both periods, Changes was made to suit the style of music, which Dolly is known for – which is understandable.

The music of the show whilst good, is not impeccable. You don’t leave the show with many of the songs in your head. Plus, the melodies and rhythm of the musical numbers sound extremely similar throughout the show, with lyrics which are simple and repetitive. However beautifully performed some of them are, there is definitely work to be done to elevate the production. The southern accent and volume levels also lead to a lot of words being difficult to hear. Which means that the audience miss out on some of the storytelling, and as there are new plot points, this is an issue and distances viewers from the storyline. There are however some songs which do standout, specifically the gorgeous rendition of ‘Three Candles’. The song is beautiful, heart-warming, and shows a true bond between Eben and his sister. The harmonies are lullaby-levels of soothing and it is definitely the standout number of the show. Sarah O’Connor’s voice is just heavenly and really makes the song spectacular.

Credit: Manuel Harlan

The new plot points, mainly showcased during the Ghost of Christmas Past section, are quite interesting. They add depth to the characters, and the past plot could be a story all on its own, separate to the Christmas Carol blueprint. The story is still based around the Dickens’ main plot points but now they have an added twist, with a betrayal by Eben and Marley recruiting Eben instead of them being equal partners, to name a few. These add to the plot but they then get side-tracked as soon as we re-enter the classic tale. The other aspect that gets easily sidetracked in this production is the current version of Scrooge, played by Robert Bathurst. He feels secondary to the story and you completely forget he’s even there at times. He simply watches on as the action happens around him, without giving many comments or showing emotional growth.

Whilst the show definitely has areas to improve, the vocal performance are gorgeous at times and the singing alone can cause the audience to shed a tear. It is a story filled with Christmas cheer, hope and joy and remains a good choice for the festive season.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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