Caro Meets Musicals & Opera Interview

Mark Magill, Martin John Bristow, Randy Smartnick and James Thacker: A Christmas Carol

By | Published on Monday 12 December 2016


I know you can’t move for Scrooge references around here at the moment, but I promise this will all end in January. But of course not before you have all had a chance to see this musical version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Broadway types Alan Menken, Lynn Ahrens and Mike Ockrent, a production of which is being staged at LOST Theatre this month.
To find out more about the show I put some questions to the creative team behind it: Mark Magill, Martin John Bristow, Randy Smartnick and James Thacker.

CM: This particular version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ is well known to New York audiences, as it became something of a festive fixture there for a time, but has it been performed here much, or at all?
M,M,R+J: It’s not performed often in London, although there is a concert version being performed in London this year as well, so maybe we’re starting a new London trend!

CM: What made you decide to stage it now?
M,M,R+J: We had wanted to put on a Christmas show here at LOST Theatre, but at this time of year we didn’t want to compete with an already saturated Pantomime market – and when we were researching we fell on the idea of the show, which one of the co-directors had seen many years ago at Madison Square Gardens in New York.

Once we looked at the script and the score we fell in love with it. It’s great to do a timeless classic in a fun way that lets the audience rediscover the story.

CM: Who would you say this show is suitable for? Is it okay for children? Are there any scary moments?
M,M,R+J: Most children will have a great night at the show. Even the Ghosts (who are fabulous in our production) are singing their way through the show, so the music keeps audiences of all ages engaged and entertained.

CM: What is the music like? What genre would it fall into?
M,M,R+J: It’s a very traditional Musical Theatre/Disney style score. Alan Menken, who wrote the musical, wrote a lot for Disney including ‘Aladdin’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Pocahontas’ and ‘Beauty and The Beast’ – so anyone who likes musicals or Disney is sure to love this show. And if you love both then we’re surprised you’ve not already booked tickets for every night!

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the creative team behind the production?
M,M,R+J: It’s an international collaboration with two Englishman, one Scotsman and an American – so the production meetings need a translator.

Mark Magill and Martin John Bristow are co-directing. Mark is the Artistic Director of LOST Theatre and has worked in theatre in London for over 35 years (which is amazing because he still tells everyone he’s 21). He previously ran an award winning theatre company before he took up his current position in 2006. Martin has worked in theatre for over 15 years as an actor, voice coach, director, artistic director, lecturer, lighting & sound designer, production manager and company stage manager – but working at LOST Theatre has been the first time he’s been expected to do them all simultaneously. He trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and the Actors’ Studio Drama School in New York. Being Scottish he feels he has a unique insight into the spirits.

Musical direction is being ably handled by Randy Smartnick who is often found humming to himself in a corner with a baton. Randy comes from a Musical Theatre background, having worked as a performer, director and production manager both in London and the United States of Trump… sorry, America. He has written and orchestrated three new musicals, and has been lucky enough to have two West End directorial jobs. Between rehearsals, he is practising the correct pronunciation of London tube stops.

Our choreographer is James Thacker (Associate Director of LOST Theatre). He has lots and lots of different types of dance shoes in lots and lots of different colours. The rest of the team like the tap shoes best because it makes it easier to find him. James recently directed a 4-star run of ‘Boys’ by Ella Hickson, and has previously directed and co-directed plays including ‘Mojo’, as well as designing costume and sets for a variety of productions. He is a great lover of scotch eggs, chicken and peanut butter – but not in the same bowl.

CM: Everyone knows the story of Scrooge, of course, but how faithful is this version to the original tale?
M,M,R+J: It’s fairly faithful, but there are a few changes. As you mentioned earlier, it was on stage for a long time in New York, so there are a few Americanisms and a couple more fa-la-la’s and rumpty-pums than are present in Dickens’ original text, but all of the elements you expect are there. Unless you’re Mark, who is still trying to find the scene with the Muppets.

CM: Are you fans of Christmas? Or are you Scrooges? How do you celebrate this time of year?
Mark: I get a few days off, so that’s quite nice. No, I adore Christmas. I like to spend time with my family.
Randy: It’s the most wonderful time of the year. My favourite thing is putting my baubles on my tree.
James: I love going back up North to see my family and getting a few days in the country. Even better if it’s snowing.
Martin: A few quiet days are great. The whole team here at LOST Theatre work so hard throughout the year it’s really nice to have a few days clear to spend with friends and family.

CM: If you had to pick one ghost, which would it be?
Randy: Present
Mark: Past
Martin: Future – I love the costume!
James: Any Ghost – so long as they tap dance!

CM: Can you see yourselves bringing it back on a yearly basis like they did in New York…?
M,M,R+J: That’s not a terrible idea… Watch this space! But just in case we don’t – get your tickets for this year now!

‘A Christmas Carol’ is on at LOST Theatre from 19-31 Dec. See the venue website here for info and to book.


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