Veronica Paeper’s A Christmas Carol – The Story of Scrooge

Presented by: Cape Town City Ballet
Dancers: Cape Town City Ballet and guest artist, Marcel Meyer as Scrooge
When: December 8-29, 2023
Where: Artscape Drama Theatre
Tickets: R200-R400. Book at Artscape Dial-a-seat 021 421 7695 or Webtickets
Direct booking link:
Costume design: Dicky Longhurst
Set design: Peter Cazalet assisted by Michael Mitchell
Lighting design: Fahiem Bardiem
Duration: Two hours including 30 minute interval      

I love, love, loved seeing Veronica Paeper’s A Christmas Carol- The Story Of Scrooge, presented by Cape Town City Ballet makes a welcome return to the stage, this festive season, December 8-29, 2023 at Artscape in the Theatre (not in the Opera House). Paeper’s acclaimed ballet premiered in 1982 and was staged in 2019 and 2021, with actor Marcel Meyer, playing Scrooge. For 2023, Meyer is again reprising his role as Scrooge who starts off a misery and miser and transforms into a community spirited and kind human.

Charles Dickens’ novella, was published in 1843 and remains a festive season favourite in terms of its message and the ability for re-invention and change. Paeper’s ballet is a masterpiece in non-verbal theatre, conveying the story beautifully, through dance and imagery. I saw the 2021 season, during lockdown (with limited audience numbers and masking, such different days) and was captivated. Watching the 2023 season and I think that the production has been enhanced. The dance and story flows seamlessly. The costumes (by the late Dicky Longhurst) and set (Peter Cazalet assisted by Michael Mitchell), are sumptuous, imbued with playful and quirky elements. Cape Town City Ballet is fine form. There was a rousing standing ovation on the matinee that I attended. It was interesting to see the mix of ages – from kids to an older contingent.

Once again, Marcel Meyer is a marvel as Scrooge. It has been remarkable to witness how with each ballet, he performs in, he is adding to his dance talents. On can no longer call him a character performer, because he dances and does not just act and stand there. He is brilliant as he interacts with the ballet company, becoming part of its ensemble. He is also terrific with the child dancers in the production. Bravo to the child dancers – a delight – and they dance beautifully. They are not only there for being adorable.

This season is being danced to recorded music (played by The Cape Town Philharmonic, the recording is in the CTCB music library). I was impressed by the excellent sound quality. It feels like there is an orchestra in the house. Often with recorded music for ballet, one feels that the dancers are not always cognisant of each orchestral shift and introduction of instruments. There is no conductor to watch. With Veronica Paeper’s A Christmas Carol, December 2023, the entire company is cued in to the music – as evidenced in the timing and gestures. It is as if there is an orchestra playing live and a conductor, setting the pace. I was wowed by the energy of the company – to the recorded music – as if there is an orchestra on the pit. This is testament to the skill of the company and to Paeper’s hand in directing them.

Note – there will be a children’s parade on December 23, on stage, after the 2pm performance. Children will be invited up on to the stage and be given goodie bags to celebrate the festive season. Dress up in festive season colours and be immersed in the gees. The season wraps up on December 29. At that performance, after the ballet ends, there will be a twenty minute show with choreography by Sean Bovim. This bonus show will include excerpts from some of Bovim’s works, such as Swing Time and Queen @ the Ballet. There is no extra charge to see Bovim’s collection of ballet highlights.  So one gets A Christmas Carol and Sean Bovim for the price of one ticket.  To add to the celebratory festivities, there will be champagne during interval.

Cape Town City Ballet/Veronica Paeper’s A Christmas Carol, December 2023 is a treat – a joy to watch and a lot of fun. I was entranced. Go and see it – a ballet not to be missed.  

✳ Images of Veronica Paeper A Christmas Carol, presented by Cape Town City Ballet, December 8-29, 2023- supplied.