Theatre Review - Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol

SET during the 1930s Depression in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, David H Bell, Paul T Couch and Curt Wollan’s adaptation of Dickens’ classic reimagines Ebenezer Scrooge (Robert Bathurst) as the owner of a mining town.

Scrooge’s personal fortune is enriched by others’ hard labour and the more he makes the meaner he becomes.

As a Christmas Eve snowstorm approaches, the old miser is visited by the spirit of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley (George Maguire) and three ghosts led by Minal Patel. She persuades Scrooge to revisit his past in order to recognise the importance of love, family, generosity of spirit and charity.

The original music and lyrics by Dolly Parton are certain to be a draw. Many of the songs are shamelessly sentimental, but this contrasts well with the gritty world of coal miners and lumbermen struggling to survive.

The Great Depression came early to Appalachia and life was harsh.

There are some toe-tapping numbers but nothing that raises the roof – this isn’t helped by the space and its rather deadening atmosphere.

The softer songs, Appalachian Snowfall and Three Candles, are the most memorable.

Similarly, Alison Pollard’s choreography is fun but lacks the wow factor. It’s the quieter moments that get under your skin.

Still, there’s much to enjoy. The live band is terrific and Bathurst’s Scrooge is a delight (his American accent is spot on). Corey Wickens’ fiddle-playing is evocative of the time and will remain with you long after the final curtain call.

Scott Davis’s set is wonderfully detailed – I loved the suspended chairs.

Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Carol is more of a smouldering burn than a firecracker, but stick with it. This is a festive show to savour.

Until January 14

Originally published by Westminster Extra