It seems safe to say that, since first appearing in 1992, The Muppet Christmas Carol has become a must-watch in countless households come December. And this year, families can get an extra special viewing experience by watching it accompanied by a 40-piece live orchestra.
David Mahoney, who conducted its premiere last year and is returning to the podium, says there is nothing quite like it. “It’s such good fun. When I introduce the film at the beginning, and ask who’s excited to watch The Muppets, the reaction is always extraordinary.”
Mahoney adds that he always encourages the audience to join in with the film, and says he is never disappointed. “It’s like experiencing a piece of theatre, it’s a real event. People respond to nearly every line, they just know it so well.”
This is hardly surprising considering the fondness that so many people feel for this most unique of Dickensian adaptations. A 2020 BBC Radio 2 poll saw The Muppet Christmas Carol voted one of listeners’ three best-loved Christmas movies, alongside It’s a Wonderful Life and Die Hard.
How does it feel to be working on such a treasured title? “It’s very cool to be able to put on my CV that I’ve worked with Kermit,” replies Mahoney. “But it can be quite a challenge. These Muppets can’t really sing in time, which adds some complexity. And don’t get me started on Michael Caine!”
Keeping time is a key concern, considering the orchestra must sync up exactly with the action on screen. To aid him, Mahoney uses a click track to keep the rhythm, as well as a system called ‘streamers and punches’, which tells him when key beats occur in the film.
“It’s an extraordinary musical experience.”
“There’s a lot going on, and it requires a lot of focus. But it’s very satisfying to conduct these scores from start to finish, because it’s so rare you get the opportunity to do that. It’s an extraordinary musical experience.”
In the case of The Muppet Christmas Carol that means tackling the famous soundtrack of songs by Paul Williams, including “Scrooge”, “One More Sleep 'Til Christmas” and “It Feels Like Christmas”, and the rich orchestral score by Miles Goodman.
“There are so many opportunities to sing along,” says Mahoney. “There are few Christmas films more iconic, and the music is an integral part of that. It’s also a great way to introduce younger people who might not necessarily know it.”
It’s a film he describes with great fondness having been a fan since childhood. And, although now a veteran of many live concert productions, he says The Muppet Christmas Carol still occupies a “particularly special” place.
Due to his work, Christmas is always a busy period for Mahoney. And this year it will be especially so. “I’m actually getting married on the 28th December,” he reveals, “so Christmas will be effectively cancelled for us this year as we’re going to be so focused on organising that.”
There will no doubt be plenty of faces from the world of music in attendance. A former chorister and Oxford music scholar, he got his break in the somewhat unexpected form of a boyband, called Only Men Aloud, which won the BBC competition Last Choir Standing.
“We had amazing times touring and recording albums, and it really introduced me to the music industry,” he says. “This led me into producing and conducting, which has long been a passion. Then my friend Ollie Rosenblat got in touch about doing The Jungle Book live at the Royal Festival Hall. I said, ‘yeah, why not?’ without really knowing what was involved.”
“For a lot of our audiences it’s a chance to see an orchestra for the first time.”
Fast forward a few years and the genre is now well established, with live concert screenings continuing to prove hugely popular with audiences, especially for legacy titles like The Muppet Christmas Carol. Mahoney says the partnership with Disney has been a “game-changer”, opening a raft of titles that are so rich in music.
“For a lot of our audiences it’s a chance to see an orchestra for the first time,” says Mahoney. “It’s such a fantastic way to give them that experience. It’s also an opportunity to appreciate just how great these film scores are.”
As a way to celebrate the magic of cinema, and music, a live concert screening is hard to beat. And when the likes of Kermit, Miss Piggy and Gonzo are involved, it makes for a perfect family festive experience.
Secure your tickets today and book with Disney's official box office, Disney Tickets, for The Muppet Christmas Carol in Concert.