The spirits yet to come…

Our last hurrah for 2024 was fittingly A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story (Alexandra Palace Theatre), a clever adaptation by Mark Gatiss. This well performed, spirited production took on a life of its own, the beautiful cavernous space with crumbling walls and impressive, imposing features of Victorian grandeur creating an atmosphere in which any ghost would thrive. The Gatiss tweaks began with a ‘dead as a door nail’ Marley (Peter Forbes), alive and well, a living portent of what is to come for the ‘squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner’ that is Ebenezer Scrooge (Keith Allen). He is soon dead and we are back on familiar ground as the story plays out with curmudgeonly behaviour, unrequited love, family difficulties and redemption. The narrator role, a nice, understated portrayal by Geoffrey Beevers, becomes Dickens the storyteller (as he often used to do) and Tiny Tim too, though it is only towards the end that the realisation comes to pass. One or two of the scenes lacked emotional intensity but it lifted all our spirits with those moments of jubilation after Scrooge’s transformation, ending with the whole cast giving us a stirring version of O Come All Ye Faithful which, with snow falling, looked like a Christmas card coming to life. God bless us one ‘an all.
Meanwhile, this being the start of the year, forget all those meaningless and unachievable resolutions, instead let me tell you about some productions to look out for in the early part of 2024…
Every January Cirque to Soleil take up residency at The Royal Albert Hall and, opening tonight, is Alegria: In a New Light, a reimagining of one of their classic shows, promising to whisk us away to a mystical world of visual poetry and acrobatic extravagance. How can you resist?
A new venue in London is always something to celebrate and Neon 194 in Piccadilly is staging Rehab, a darkly comic musical which, following a critically acclaimed run at the Playground Theatre in 2022, introduces us to the ‘guests’ of the Glade Rehab Centre. Mo doubt it will have the audience thinking of Amy and her fantastic, if tragic, song. Opens tomorrow.
In 2004 Catherine Tate took Britain by storm with The Catherine Tate Show introducing us to characters that are now enshrined in TV comedy history. Nan remains a legend in her council flat. Her career since then has been somewhat up and down but now you can see her onstage with David Threlfall in the world premiere of The Enfield Haunting (Ambassadors Theatre). It’s summer 1977 and the Hodgson family become the centre of one of the most famous poltergeist events in the world with furniture and toys moving of their own accord. You have been warned. Opened Monday.
If it’s stellar stuff you’re looking for the head to the Savoy Theatre for Neil Simon’s 1971 romantic comedy, Plaza Suite. None other than Sarah Jessica Parker is making her West End debut, opposite her real-life husband Matthew Broderick. If that doesn’t pack ‘em, I imagine the producers will be beside themselves. Opens 17 January.
If I said “Feed the world” to you, even those under 30, I imagine you would start singing a particular song. The Old Vic is bringing us another world premiere, Just For One Day, The Live Aid Musical, the day music brought the world together. With a cast of 26, it features the music of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Queen, Elton John, Diana Ross…do you need me to go on. Opens 26 January.
Other highlights include a new play, The Hills of California (Harold Pinter Theatre) by Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem) opening on 27 January. Set in Blackpool two sisters return to meet their mother on her deathbed. Any production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge (Theatre Royal Bath), opening on 16 February. But when it features Dominic West playing Eddie Carbone, you may want to secure that ticket quickly. Finally, for all us politicos, there is one famous Welshman, Michael Sheen, playing perhaps the best known of all in the political world, Aneurin Bevan in Nye at The National Theatre on 24 February before travelling on to its spiritual home, The Wales Millennium Centre in May.

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