The Best of Lichfield were among the assorted local press this afternoon at Garrick House, in the shadow of Lichfield Cathedral, to meet with the principal cast of the Garricks Winter production of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens much-loved classic.
The productions star, former cast member of The Bill Graham Cole, was joined by long-standing Director and Jacob Marley Ian Adams and cast members Lisa-Marie Holmes, Alex Wadham, Owain Williams and Lucy-Jane Quinlan, all resplendent in their stage costumes.
We were fortunate enough to share some time with Graham, as well as Musical Supervisor Adrian Jackson, to discuss their thoughts on this unique interpretation of an old classic.
For Graham it was the first time he's visited Lichfield in a long and varied career, which has spanned musicals, television drama, membership of the Lord Taveners (as well as being King Rat), 20 years of acting pre-The Bill and 25 years portraying Tony Stamp. "I told my wife Cherry 'It's very beautiful you're going to love it, and congratulations to Lichfield Council for all the little notices and bits of historical information around town, it's fantastic."
Graham will be temporarily relocating to Lichfield in Mid-November for the 50+ performances of the show, something he's looking forward to, and explained that while an actors life is always full of new challenges his wife believes he's a perfect fit for Scrooge. "She says I require very little preparation to play Scrooge, I've got the credentials already, very little research needed."
Psyching himself for the quintisential grouch means backing away from the younger cast pre-show time and finding his inner grump, so he can "give Dickens all the gravitas he deserves." Graham also follows the belief that the bad guy is the most fun to play. "I have to say that when you're working in television the bad guy is always the most well written. I always found that when playing Tony Stamp (his character for 25 years on The Bill) he was a nice guy, but you had to make him interesting. Most would come with a preconceived idea of what Scrooge is going to be like."
Cole was an active reader of fantasy and adventure as a youngster, imagining galleons and treasure islands under the bedsheets by torchlight, and as such will attempt to bring that sense of wonder to the younger members of the audience who will be meeting Scrooge and the characters of A Christmas Carol for the very first time.
A varied audience every night is also something that enthuses Cole when taking part in a long run of a show. "I love the fact that it's sometimes three, four generations that you're playing to in one family. They go home happy and you go back to your digs. One hopes that if you get it right, as panto is usually kids introduction to theatre, it will be a life-long love, maybe to inspire. It takes the kids maybe 15, 20 minutes before they realise that while they can see you, you can see them, so you have to break that down first."
While there's little room for improvisation, every show by nature of live performances, is different. "Actors tend to dig a trench for themselves and then have got to get out of it. And with musicals, the MD (musical director) will roll on irrespective of what you're saying as he's holding a 40 piece orchestra on a long note. He waits for no man."
Cole has a lot of admiration for the story of A Christmas carol, likening the tale to a classic love story, as Scrooeg realises what he's missed out on. Only Ebenezer has the chance to go back, view and rectify his mistakes.
Often times the rehearsals is where the fun lies largely for the cast and crew, working out the interractions and the relationships, the beats and the rythym of the piece, and before the public ever sees any action. By the time we are ushered in to the Garrick, A Christmas Carol will be rehearsed, polished and ready to roll.
We also chatted briefly with Adrian Jackson about the decision to move away from the traditional panto to musical theatre, and the challenges of making an inherrently dark tale like A Christmas Carol into a crowd-pleasing festive show. "We've added many light moments, a lot of spectacle and show-stopping moments from lots of different musicals. There are everything from pop songs to show tunes, we've popped them in. there's music from Pickwick, Maime, Annie, there's all sorts of different pieces that we've taken that stand alone but are great for our use. It's a musical theatre, MGM-style show."
Another fascinating reveal is that there's an element of winter being brought to the garrick this season. "There's a few really nice scenes on ice, there's an ice floor down. There'll be six dancers on ice skates, and the whole theatre will snow. Guaranteed snow every night."
The set is currently being constructed in Derby, in advance of being brought to Lichfield and installed. Adrian explained that for a show as big as A Christmas Carol, and with so many performances, the show really does take over The Garrick. "You almost have to reconstruct the theatre around the show, the whole place becomes the show. "
A Christmas Carol opens to the public Saturday 3rd December, running until Monday 2nd January 2012.
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Member since: 3rd July 2012
Having lived either in or close to Lichfield for nearly 40 years I've come to love the city very much.
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