“Would it help if you sat on my lap”
My decision not to see many festively-themed shows this year ran into my commitment to supporting new musical theatre writing as far as Another Night Before Christmas was concerned, so it was a rare trip down to the Bridge House Theatre in Penge for this. With book and lyrics by Sean Grennan and music by Leah Okimoto and a rare talent for attracting a top-notch cast – this two-hander stars Olivier award-winning George Maguire and Rachael Wooding – the scene is set for this alternative festive fare.
Though it has to be said, it doesn’t prove to be that different in the end. Social worker Carole manages one last act of kindness on her way home from her work Christmas do, but her plans to flop on the sofa and do nothing on Christmas Eve are well and truly disrupted by a visitor. For the man she gave the party leftovers to has rocked up on her doorstop and is claiming that he is, well, Father Christmas himself. Unable to turf him out into the cold, she soon finds him trying to whittle away at her cynicism and getting her to believe.
So it’s a bit formulaic to say the least, but Guy Rettalack’s production is also very good-natured and that takes it a long way. Okimoto’s score swings with jazzy inflection and a good deal of humour, especially in the song ‘Kill Der Bingle’, and Grennan’s script is also full of laughs, many of them cheesy but hey, it’s the season for it. And Wooding and Maguire both work the intimacy of this pub theatre well, two strong voices and plenty of charisma for days, they might just make a believer out of the biggest of Scrooges.