With soaring harmonies and a sprinkle of magic, Claus the Musical is a heartfelt and sincere tale that covers an otherwise cynical world with a blanket of hope, if only for the festive season.
The story – adapted from L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Simon Warne – is that of a young boy called Claus who, abandoned in the woods, is raised by a host of fairies, nymphs, nooks and ryls. Filled with a sense of adventure and the desire to make people happy, the tale of that mysterious festive figure unwinds.
The set and costumes by Stewart J. Charlesworth bring to mind blanket forts and raiding your parents’ wardrobes for scarves and fabrics to create your own magical world, creating both a sense of childlike imagination and rustic charm.
With echoes of Oberon and Titania, Junior Delius and Mari McGinlay play the forests’ King AK and the Nymph Queen Zurline respectively. Delius’ statuesque figure provided remarkable presence in this role, and yet when playing part of the ensemble of creatures was able to blend in without pulling focus. McGinlay was every inch the regal queen, whose occasional sarcasm and quips provided a little edge to an otherwise very sweet show.
Every show must have a villain, and Claus is no exception, with King Awgwa being the leader of a band of mischievous creatures who make the children of earth naughty. Jazz Evans steals the show, and was evidently inspired by the Grinch, with a hint of pirate – you almost expected a classic “Boo! Hiss!” from the audience whenever he entered the scene. Evans’ quick wit and scowling grin again cut through the otherwise saccharine story to create depth and dynamic.
The two characters with the most to show vocally were Georgie Buckland – playing Necile, the nymph tasked with raising the abandoned baby – and Harry Winchester, the iconic Claus. Buckland’s clean and pure vocals were standout throughout the show, whilst Winchester’s beaming smile embodied Christmas spirit.
When sat in the audience, Andy Collyer’s music could rival many a Disney film, with a combination of soaring ballads and whimsical songs. However, it potentially lacks a central ‘ear worm’ to keep you humming on your journey home and reliving the moments in the days after.
This show does undoubtedly deserve a larger space, as at times Lucinda Lawrence’s choreography felt constricted by the smaller Quays Theatre stage. But that is testament to this world premiere, where its potential – and need – to be performed with more room to breathe is already evident.
If you are looking for a festive show that is perhaps more earnest than a pantomime but just as uplifting, Claus could well be a new family tradition.
Review written for Matinee Radio