“It’s snowing!” yells a small boy into a microphone centre stage. The enormous orchestra swells with string runs, iced with glockenspiel, and thirty singers crowd to the front of the stage between the two giant, twinkling Christmas trees, and belt out in glorious harmony to a rapturous finish. A standing ovation immediately follows: the audience has quite literally gone insane from the the magic of Christmas.
Who better to present the UK premiere of composer Alan Menken’s nine millionth hit stage musical than the brand new London Musical Theatre Orchestra. It’s hard to believe this is only their second outing; all 2,100 seats of the Lyceum Theatre sold out about a month in advance, due in part to the all-star cast.
Robert Lindsay underplayed Scrooge to good effect, weaving between singing and speak-singing, although unfortunately out of sync with the orchestra at multiple points. At one point he joked about losing his place in the script, but we laughed and forgave him. Carrie Hope Fletcher’s ten seconds as a blind beggar was sensationally moving; for me, the highlight of the first act.
But despite the casting, the orchestra remained the star of the show, even amid a few unfortunate tech difficulties. Every orchestral flourish was finely tuned, bringing both the rousing orchestral power and the sentimental passages to the fore. The small string section especially sounded amazingly rich. It’s worth noting that this amplified, big Broadway blast-through was a different kettle of fish to the LMTO’s debut, an intimate Rodgers and Hammerstein in the natural acoustics of Cadogan Hall. My only fear is that as the LMTO continue to rocket towards further glory, they don’t lose in artistry what they gain by bums on seats.