Eventim Apollo, London
Music and lyrics by Tom Fletcher
Directed by Derek Bond
|Tom Fletcher and Dan McLellan
“This is not a musical. This is not a concert. This is not a panto, or a play, or anything I can compare it to,” so proclaims Tom Fletcher in the show notes. And he is quite right. While The Christmasaurus Live On Stage has components of all of these, it is – much like the titular only dinosaur in the world – truly unique.
The Christmasaurus tells the story of William Trundle, who wants nothing more than for his dad to be happy. Friendless and lonely, he asks only for a dinosaur for Christmas. Meanwhile, in the North Pole - the home of an equally lonely Christmasaurus - Santa and his elves are working hard to get ready for the big day, and to fulfil William’s wish. However, The Hunter - a man who by his own admission is ‘fangirly for taxidermy’ - stands in the way of a seamless Christmas Eve, as he plans to shoot down one of Santa’s flying reindeer, before determining that the Christmasaurus should be his prize.
From the outset, it is abundantly clear that this show is full of heart and joy; the Christmas spirit brought to life. Tom Fletcher (who plays William's father Bob, as well as narrating the plot) commands the stage in a role he was born to play. Matt Willis (The Hunter) and Harry Judd (Dancer Bob) are hilarious, Carrie Hope Fletcher (Brenda Payne) outstanding as a vocalist and Giovanna Fletcher (Miss Payne) is warm, funny and magnetic.
Elsewhere, the terrific ensemble adapts to a variety of scenarios with seeming ease. While there are no weak links, special mention goes to Katie Bradley, Miracle Chance and Raquel Jones for delivering some sterling performances.
William Trundle will be played by three young actors across the show’s run. In this review performance, Dan McLellan did a beautiful job in capturing the character’s alternating innocence and keen awareness. He proves he is more than capable of delivering elements of this challenging role, including some soaring vocals and snappy one-liners - a stunning debut from this young performer.
What also shines through in this short run at Hammersmith, is Fletcher’s commitment to making his show’s representative of, and accessible to, all children. Beyond casting actors who are genuine wheelchair users for Trundle, there is also an interpreter those who are hard of hearing on stage throughout. What’s more, unlike most theatres, the Eventim Apollo is far better equipped to facilitate wheelchair access. Fletcher is truly making this Christmas magical for thousands of children and adults.
Musically, the score is a work of genius, combining Fletcher’s expertise in writing great pop songs and a natural gravitas towards musical theatre, previously articulated in McFly’s Wonderland album (2005). Each song is a standalone entity crafted to perfection; there are no filler tracks here.
A highlight is Afraid of Heights, an exceptionally rousing number that cements the show’s film potential – something that’s currently in the works, with The Greatest Showman director Michael Gracey signed on to the project.
As ever, Howard Hudson's lighting enahnces the tale magnificently, but despite Santa and The Elves’ presence throughout, it is the Christmasaurus himself who brings the real magic to the stage. Puppeteers Mikey Brett and Luisa Guerreiro breathe life into Max Humphries’ design in a way that presents no doubt about the authenticity of this wondrous creature. There isn’t a soul that believes otherwise and so manifests, the message purveyed throughout the production – that “believing is seeing.”
Fun, energetic, heartfelt and magical, The Christmasaurus Live On Stage is a gift worth its weight in gold, that's sure to become a Christmas classic. Merry Christmasaurus!
Runs until 28th December
Reviewed by Bhakti Gajjar