The sight of Ebenezer Scrooge in a red Santa suit is wrong, wrong, wrong. Whichever way you look at it, it’s wrong.
But you’d have to be as hard-hearted as Scrooge himself to complain too much.
This isn’t Scrooge for the Dickens purists; it’s the Tommy Steele Show, and the old fella’s on cracking form.
This isn’t a production which recreates the ghostly chill of the original or offers you a Scrooge as Dickens intended, a misanthropist who is actually rather frightening.
Instead, Tommy plays it for the laughs.
His unrepentant Scrooge is more Albert Steptoe than Ebenezer, and when the transformation comes we get Tommy doing what Tommy does best and has done for years: the cheeky chappie routine that you can’t help but warm to.
There are plenty of big numbers and lavish costumes. It’s like a succession of Victorian-style Christmas cards passing before your eyes – all rightly rewarded at the end with a standing ovation. This is A Christmas Carol in sanitised form, shorn of the nasty bits and as bright as a button, played with great energy and oodles of humour – and it works beautifully on its own terms.
However, if you want Dickens on Dickens’ terms, then Clive Francis, in his one-man A Christmas Carol, remains the one to beat – and the good news is that he is back at the Mill Studio at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre this Christmas.
Tommy will warm your cockles, but Clive will tingle your spine, and I know which one I prefer.