Claus tells the back story of everyone’s favourite red suited gift giver. Originally a book by Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, this has been adapted for the stage by Simon Warne this Christmas.
Before the show starts, members of the cast are littered around the auditorium, with long pieces of fabric being pulled across the audience in utter chaos. This really does get the younger members of the audience excited. The show starts with an almost ‘minions charm’, with characters getting the letters for Claus in the wrong order in silhouette form.
From here we are introduced to abandoned baby Claus, who has taken in by a wood nymph Necile. Raised amongst the immortals in the safe confines of the Forest of Burzee, he craves to know what life is like in the outside world. Creating model animals, he finds joy in gifting these to local children when he explores outside Burzee. However, he soon learns that not everyone is as kind. From this point Jazz Evans as King Awgwa steals the show with his stellar bad guy performance. It would have been nice to see other characters developed for the audience to care more strongly about them. Perhaps a slimmed down version of the ambitious show and company would help achieve this.
The music is one of the stronger elements of this musical. The quality of Andy Collyer’s music shines from opening number ‘The Sound if Burzee’ onwards and throughout, with an almost Disney-esq charm. The ensemble numbers allow us to really appreciate the talent of the undeniably strong cast. Harry Winchester, as Claus, has a sensationally smooth voice which really shines in ‘Journey to The World.’
The staging is impressive in how it fully utilises the smaller of The Lowry’s two stages. Being on multiple levels it helps keep things interesting. It would have been nice to see some different set pieces to help bring scenes to life. Attempts were made with sheets being moved and stretched by the ensemble, but this didn’t work and was confusing. What should be commended however was the use of silhouettes which helped tell several stories.
The story itself could have been stronger, with some arguably unnecessary plot twists making it particularly challenging for younger audience members. The laughs and festive moments were few. With such a chaotically fun pre-show element, I would have loved to have seen this vibe carried through the rest of the show. It however is great to see something new during the festive period.
Claus plays at The Lowry until Sunday 08 January 2023, booking info below.
Photo: Pamela Raith