A Christmas Carol
14/11/2014 - 15/11/2014
20/11/2014 - 23/11/2014
30/10/2014 - 08/11/2014
28/11/2014 - 29/11/2014
Our wardrobe team are having a hair-raising time: not because of the array of ghosts and phantoms which appear in A Christmas Carol (although they do add to the atmosphere, spooky masks, skeletal hands and all), but because of the complex wigs and make up featuring onstage. The company will be touring with a specialist Wig Mistress to take charge of wigs, moustaches, beards, sideburns and the odd topknot. She’ll also help to transform the dancers cast as Ebenezer Scrooge, all of whom are 30 or under, into the grizzled old Grinch that the name evokes.
With more than a dozen ‘named’ characters and almost all the dancers playing multiple roles,keep an eye on our website, and we’ll update via Facebook too.
Wellington opening night casting – 30 October:
St James Theatre|Wellington|Thursday 30 October 2014
SCROOGE – Paul Mathews
YOUNG SCROOGE – Shane Urton
BELLE FEZZIWIG – Lucy Green
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST – Lori Gilchrist
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT- MacLean Hopper
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE – Peng Fei Jiang
BOB CRATCHIT – Kohei Iwamoto
MRS CRATCHIT – Hayley Donnison
TINY TIM – Wilson Jack
MR FEZZIWIG – Rory Fairweather-Neylan
MRS FEZZIWIG – Bronte Kelly
NEPHEW – Jacob Chown
NEPHEW’S WIFE – Clytie Campbell
MARLEY GHOST – George Liang*
CRATCHIT DAUGHTERS – Katherine Grange, Leonora Voigtlander
CRATCHIT SON – George Liang*
FEZZIWIG DAUGHTERS – Mayu Tanigaito, Tonia Looker, Katherine Minor
FIDDLER TAVERN PAS DE DEUX – Joseph Skelton Tonia Looker, John Hull
ENSEMBLE Artists of the Royal New Zealand Ball, et, Shi Yue*, Elisabeth Zorino*
* New Zealand School of Dance
CHILDREN Isobel Anderson, Euphemia Baker, Maddi Campbell, Sarah Clarke,
Stephen Clarke (Rich Boy), Tiffany Kenyon, Florence Kitteridge, Domynic McCarthy,
Marie Simonsen, Alice Thompson, Herbert Zielinski, Tabitha Zielinski (Rich Girl)
CONDUCTOR – Nigel Gaynor
Act I 20 minute interval Act II 20 minute interval Act III
Presentation bouquets for Wellington performances by Flowers Manuela through the National Flower Promotion Group
Gothic spectacle reminds us about the joys of sharing and giving
Review by Kim Buckley 01st Dec 2014
A Gothic Spectacle beheld me on Saturday night at the Napier Municipal Theatre with The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol’. Award winning Designer Lez Brotherston’s drab grey stage design is marvelously evocative of 1870’s London, and includes some cunning turnabout scenery, astutely used. Winter, grey, foggy, snowy and cold, is invoked with Jon Buswell’s lighting design together with clever use of a looped digital sequence projected onto the front of stage gauze. This projection, executed simultaneously with the musical intro of each new Act, is used to set the scene, to bring us back from our 21st century lives and into the ‘reality’ of Ebenezer Scrooge. Carl Davis CBE, is a multi-talented, award-winning Composer with credentials that run through radio, film, television and theatre.
This esteemed work, originally created for Northern Ballet by Choreographer Massimo Moricone, and frequently performed over the last two decades, is true to the story. Moricone has highlighted specific arcs throughout this Dickens’ tale, as to easily identify Scrooge’s transformational journey through all three Acts.
Paul Mathews’ depiction of mean and grumpy Scrooge is overall convincing as he interacts with his kind and warm-hearted protégé Bob Cratchit, performed by the ever delightful Kohei Iwamoto. The sign in Scrooge’s counting house states TIME IS MONEY as opposed to Cratchit’s family home with its HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS sign.
Rory Fairweather-Neylan and Bronte Kelly produce Mr and Mrs Fezziwig. At once bumbling, humorous, good-natured and generous as a couple, they are delightful as they play off each other in their Christmas dance. Shane Urton as the young Scrooge is credible in his portrayal of a man who finds himself more aligned with ‘gain’ than love. The physical and emotional tension created by these disparate characters is powerful. Lucy Green gives us an endearing yet broken-hearted young Belle Fezzwig.
By contrast to the drab grey world of Ebenezer Scrooge, the Fezzwig’s Christmas and indeed the rest of London city shoppers and carol singers, are colourful and lush. Sumptuously costumed in red and green velvets, with hats and muffs to match, we get a taste of the blessings Scrooge is missing out on.
Lots of young people in this production saw twelve local children on stage all remarkably able to remain in character. George Baker as Tiny Tim, the Cratchit family’s young son, is outstanding in his voice performance of ‘How Far Is It To Bethlehem?’
The ghost of Christmas past, Mayu Tanigaito, is gentle in her persuasion adorned with a sparkling headpiece. The ghost of Christmas present, MacLean Hopper, flourishes his mischievousness with his long green velvet cloak, green face and glitter. And the ghost of Christmas future, Peng Fei Jiang, is grotesque in a divine skeletal and feather costume. The ghost of Marley, George Liang, is adequately creepy in his tattered clothing and chains.
For me, the standout piece of the night is in Act II, ‘Come Follow Me (round)’ whereupon Scrooge is left with and surrounded by phantoms which grow more and more powerful. This piece is at once beautifully horrifying, gorgeously costumed, authentically and seamlessly designed and choreographed from singular dancers through to trios. Supernatural and magnificent.
We finish with Scrooge realising the error of his ways, as he is shown his own untimely and lonesome death. Three hags steal and sell his few tatters belongings in a bawdry, almost x-rated, scene of drunks and prostitutes. Scrooge literally awakens to a new age, his heart warmed, his generosity regained, and his self transformed. Is it a warm and colourful end to this production and perhaps a timely reminder to us, that Christmas is indeed about the giving and sharing with the ones we love. Thanks to Dickens.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Spirits lifted and imaginations transported
Review by Sheree and Angel Bright 21st Nov 2014
“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
It is a cheerful and enthusiastic audience who arrive for the Christchurch opening night of the RNZB season of A Christmas Carol. Young and old alike seem enchanted to be out for the evening’s special event, discovering the newly renovated Isaac Theatre Royal, which was badly damaged in the earthquakes. With its gold leaf accents, sparkling chandeliers, textured wallpaper, and plush carpet, the Isaac Theatre Royal offers an excellent venue, where spirits can be lifted and imaginations transported. A welcome contrast to the empty spaces and rubble that still occupies much of the central city. Friendly ushers encourage us to have a look at the dome, newly restored with angelic representations, before taking our seats in the full house.
There is mystery and anticipation as the show begins. The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nigel Gaynor expertly executes the score which infuses the evening and establishes the tone. Through music composed by Carl Davis and theatrical design elements created by Lez Brotherston and Jon Buswell, the atmosphere of a classical Christmas is convincingly set. Bells ring. Snow falls. A Dickens tale begins.
An ominous change of music introduces us to a funeral procession as dancers sing “Marley is dead….as a doornail.” Thus the coffin of Marley, Scrooge’s business partner, is lowered from the first story platform of this multi-level set. There is a central stair case which impressively splits apart and rotates to reveal different scenes, whether shop interior or exterior, bedroom or city-street.
A large group of jovial carol singers along with several young street children gather in front of Scrooge’s office hoping to obtain a donation. They carry signs which read, “Merry Christmas”, and “Feed the Hungry” helping to establish the idea of the spirit of Christmas as one of generosity and community. But of course, Scrooge, played by Paul Matthews, will have none of it. Breaking a sign and abruptly sending them off, he presents himself as uncharitable and uncaring, with plenty of room for growth.
Scrooge’s dismal persona is further juxtaposed by Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s warm hearted yet mistreated clerk. Cratchit played by Kohei Iwamoto demonstrates crisp footwork and strong, clear extensions with a cheery disposition that swells and seems to compel him to dance, only to be snuffed out by the reprimands of Scrooge. Interactions between Cratchit and Scrooge are well timed and introduce the comedic element of the production. While Scrooge is placed near the fire, Mr Cratchit attempts to warm his feet with a single candle.
Act One also includes a lovely and well executed duet, by Scrooge’s nephew (Jacob Chown) and his wife (Clytie Campbell). A winter street scene shows dancers playfully descending and running up a slide, aptly using momentum and the space between levels and includes a strong unison segment.
Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Marley, now distorted and weighed down by chains. Marley’s ghost, (George Liang) floats, as if suspended mid-air, and speaks of the ghostly doom, and eternal wandering that awaits Scrooge if he does not change his avaricious course. Other tormented phantoms dressed in white tattered clothes gather on the stage performing ghoulish yet graceful moves around a terrified Scrooge. These ensemble phantom scenes are among the most effective of the evening.
In general there is a challenge making transitions between the muteness of miming and singing portions. The use of dialogue or narration could enhance accessibility to the story, especially for those audience members without a programme. In spite of the limitations imposed by the storytelling format, the movement clarity of these talented dancers shines through as they deliciously devour the space.
The sound of a chilling winter wind opens Act Two. Scrooge awakens, and tries in vain to close the tattered drapes of his giant bed chamber window when it magically opens and the Ghost of Christmas Past (Mayu Tanigaito) appears. With flowing white hair and gown, she commands attention with her lightness and precision, taking Scrooge on a journey to his past.
Here we meet the whimsical Fezziwig family who were Scrooge’s first employers. Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig (Rory Fairweather-Neylan and Bronte Kelly) provide the best laughs of the show, with excellent timing and use of physical comedy. Another highlight of this sequence is the skilful dancing of Joseph Skelton as the fiddler. This act also contains the most moving moments of the performance. Young Scrooge (Shane Urton) and his fiancé Belle(Lucy Green) perform a beautiful adagio duet with sustained lifts and superb partnering. There is affection between them, yet young Scrooge falters in his preference for money over love and Belle reluctantly returns the ring, much to the distress of older Scrooge, who is beginning to see the error of his ways.
The Ghost of Christmas Present (MacLean Hopper) wears a spectacular emerald robe, and dazzles us with his spritely movements as he scatters glitter upon the scene. We are taken to tender moments at the Cratchit’s home, including a song by Tiny Tim (Xavier Dickason).
Act Three begins with the entrance of the ominous Ghost of Christmas Future (Peng Fei Jiang) whose costume is impressive wearable art yet limits the movement possibilities for his character. Scrooge is shown a future where both he and Tiny Tim are dead, convincing him to change.
It’s Christmas morning, and Scrooge wakes up to church bells and the dawn of a brighter day. He is finally able to break free from his physical, mental and spiritual restrictions. His movements transform from the strong gestural mime of the First and Second Acts to the freedom of more vigorous dancing. So enthusiastic, with happy hitch kicks and strong wide second position plies, he dances while getting dressed, a challenging feat performed with skill by Matthews.
The stage is filled with characters that Scrooge now warmly embraces in the celebration of a Christmas feast. With all the cast on stage, they offer a fond farewell with organ music and singing and are met by a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.
Dance is an international language and this is reflected by the international cast of the RNZB and their interpretation of A Christmas Carol imported from the UK’s Northern Ballet and choreographed by Massimo Moricome. Van Praagh and Brinson in The Choreographic Art state that, “Great masters of ballet . . . saw their art as the unison of dance with music and mime, stage design and costumes to tell a story or create a mood.” RNZB’s A Christmas Carol does what it sets out to do, tell a Dickens tale, with a successful blending of these component arts.
The programme includes a quote from one of Dicken’s sons who wrote that, for Dickens, Christmas was ‘a great time, a really jovial time, and my father was always at his best, a splendid host, bright and jolly as a boy and throwing his heart and soul into everything that was going on . . . And then the dance! There was no stopping him!” And there is no stopping the RNZB.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Exuberant and joyous dancing
Review by Hannah Molloy 16th Nov 2014
The Royal New Zealand ballet’s A Christmas Carol, accompanied by the Southern Sinfonia, felt different to other ballets I’ve seen recently. It was as luxurious as ever, with beautiful costumes and clever make up but the dancing felt more exuberant, more joyous somehow and every single one of the dancers looked as though they were enjoying themselves thoroughly.
The scenery was beautiful with clever sets that were moved easily by the dancers themselves, forming and reforming to make the different locations – down at the wharves, inside and outside Scrooge’s shop, a tavern, Scrooge’s bedroom and outside his previous employer’s shop. They didn’t appear to be elaborately painted but on close scrutiny, the detail was almost distractingly minute. The lighting was exquisite, Scrooge’s bedroom window particularly absorbed me, and the way an element of lighting could make a figure appear to be one thing only to be in fact something entirely different.
There was so much to look at, so much happening all the time that I found myself being drawn in by the tiny details, dainty toes coming down the (precariously steep-looking) stairs, the fall and shades of ribbons on the Fezziwig family’s dresses, the stretch of a bawdy house woman’s leg, the cut of the avaricious souls costumes – my guest and I decided no one does rags like the RNZB wardrobe team.
There was so much dancing to look at as well, with a timbre different to what I had been expecting. Of course, the characters were mostly very much in the Christmas spirit and celebrating the festive season. The drunken bawdiness of Christmas in old-time London was delightful in the tavern scene – I love the way good dancers depict excessive alcohol consumption. And the ghosts, of course. They were entrancing, from the NZ School of Dance’s George Liang as the threatening Marley in chains and mask with his demonic souls, ethereal and delicate Lucy Green as Christmas Past, twinkly and ever-so mischievous William Fitzgerald as Christmas Present and dreadful, spectral Oscar Hoelscher as Christmas Future. It seemed almost a pity that these roles were played in the background of the drama of Scrooge’s life as they were so fun. The Gary Glitter-esque coat and red velvet pants of Christmas Present were something to behold – and to dance in that coat…! Future was macabre, with elongated arms and skeletal body shrouded in the truest sense of the word. Past was just delicious, a gentler Titania to Present’s Puck.
I found myself musing on the way costumes can so utterly change the proportions of performers and thus the perceptions of the audience. The pretty Fezziwig girls looked tiny in their simple pretty dresses, while the demon souls looked enormous – and not only their oversize and very creepy hands. This (mis) perception added greatly to my enjoyment and offered food for discussion later as well.
I’ve often thought it must be difficult to maintain a smile through a whole performance without it looking forced but Scrooge’s nephew’s wife, danced by Mayu Tanigaito, managed to do this particularly well, with a beautiful smile that simply looked as though she loved what she was doing.
The Sinfonia was magnificent, demonstrating what we really do miss with a recorded soundtrack rather than a live performance – it adds such a depth to the atmosphere and whetted the audience’s curiosity as well with the pit ringed with people during the intermissions.
The audience was full of children and it was charming to hear their people explaining what was happening, and the little cries of excitement, wonder, and occasionally a whimper of fear in the eerie parts. I think the highlight for me was the tiny guy in front of us who leaped to his little feet clapping and bouncing at the end – I put the two curtain calls down to his infectious enthusiasm for what he had seen. (Sometimes it takes a little unfettered joy to shake a Dunedin audience out of its complaisance.)
This performance deserved its two curtain calls and perhaps, if my arms weren’t aching from applauding, even a couple more. It was delicious.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Go see this production and take the kids, they need to know about Dickens.
Review by Lyne Pringle 31st Oct 2014
This enduring classic tale originally written by Charles Dickens hits the Wellington stage on the eve of Halloween – very appropriately given the number of ghosts, skeletons and ghouls that feature on stage.
We are treated to a great night in the theatre.
The themes are as relevant today as they were in early Victorian London, when the work was written. Against our contemporary New Zealand milieu, where greed prevails and one in four children don’t have anything in their lunchboxes, this offering from the Royal New Zealand Ballet rests very well. It is a treat to attend a ballet with some meat to it, and in their inimitable zesty style the company delivers a memorable and at times moving rendition.
This story is ultimately one of hope that even the most miserly amongst us can find it in their heart to share their good fortune – heart-warming indeed, there are hugs all round in the foyer afterwards as Christmas arrives early in the capital with smiling patrons spilling out onto the streets.
The design and choreography has been grafted in total onto the company from a production commissioned by Christopher Gable for the Northern Ballet, and it is the first time it has been seen outside of the United Kingdom. A star-studded international team has mounted the work: Massimo Moricone is the choreographer, Daniel de Andrade the producer and Lez Brotherston the designer.
It is opulent and striking with highly memorable costumes and a cleverly designed split level set that is hypermobile so able to evoke many settings and moods. A filmic quality pervades the work. This is enhanced by the rich and fascinating score from Carl Davis, who intersperses Christmas carols with the orchestrations, and the dancers get to sing, which is a bonus. Under the baton of Nigel Gaynor, the Wellington Orchestra relish the challenges of the music. They are a superb orchestra.
A moody prologue draws us in before the stage is filled with dancers and children. The palate of the costumes and set are very similar, making it hard to distinguish the movements, but the mood of Christmas Eve on busy streets is evoked. Spirited choreography sets the tone: the vocabulary is largely classical interspersed with some contemporary elements.
We start to get the measure of Scrooge, played with focus and assurance by Paul Mathews, as he churlishly goes about his business as a penny-pinching tyrant in a very large top hat. Kohei Iwamoto plays his assistant Bob Cratchit with suitable exuberance and élan; underpaid and overworked and no doubt never given a tea break – sound familiar? The mood becomes dismal and cold, and we can almost smell the river fog as children rattle their begging bowls. The corp de ballet as the poor folks on the streets give their all in spirited thrusts of movement that lead to dynamic lurches and shifts of weight.
Scrooge heads to his shabby bedroom to be ‘consumed by dreams of avarice’.
Act II is fantastic. Lighting gauzes, costumes and scene changes are imaginatively used to conjure various ghosts and sprits. Here this grand production really takes off. Scrooge moves through his dark night of the soul as he confronts his shortcomings led by the Ghost of Christmas Past; the lithesome Lori Gilchrist with the best entrance in the show and the Ghost of Christmas Present; the flamboyant MacLean Hopper with the best costume in the show.
The brightness of the Fezziwig house lifts the mood. Mr Fezziwig and Mrs Fezziwig are danced with comic genius by Rory Fairweather-Neylan and Bronte Kelly, bringing twitters and peals of laughter from the audience. Joseph Skelton is a virtuoso dancing fiddler.
Young Scrooge and his first and only love Belle Fezziwig are danced by Shane Urton and Lucy Green. They deliver an exquisite duet, beautifully nuanced and heartfelt, underpinned by effortless technique. The musicality, choreography and their performance creates one of those memorable moments in the theatre that will be long treasured.
The dancer/actors in the Cratchit household create a believable family scene. They are poor but happy. Tiny Tim played by Wilson Jack melts our hearts with a sweet song.
Choreographic and directional realisation, in terms of vocabulary and narrative arc, are extremely clever in this Act as scenes cross fade into one another.
Act III keeps plucking away at our heart strings and throws in some scary moments as the momentum of the work amps up towards Scrooge’s catharsis. Suffice to say there is a happy ending despite the gloomy warnings from the Ghost of Yet to Come, statuesquely played by Peng Fei Jiang, in the second best costume of the evening.
We are left appreciating the final wonderful dance, the cute kids, the many spectacular production elements and the ‘warm fuzzies’ that we left with.
Go see this production and take the kids, they need to know about Dickens.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer