The title of this show sounds rather more thrilling and enticing than the plot ultimately delivers. However, that did not seem to bother the smallest members of the audience (2-8 year olds) who were dancing, singing and clapping in eager anticipation even before the show started and managed to remain glued to the action from start to finish.
The story takes place on Christmas Eve when Santa is about to head off to deliver presents. However, fog has descended and it looks like Christmas may have to be cancelled (which would no doubt suit some cash-strapped parents this year). The only sensible solution which presents itself is to use Rudolph and his amazingly shiny nose to light the way to get the presies delivered on time. Though the story is hardly adventurous, or even very novel, it is still apt for the target audience.
The three actors who take on the roles of the live characters – John Hester as Santa, Holly Easterbrook as Kara, and Joe Allen as Charlie are all jolly and good-humoured, and create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Though Joe Allen seemed to have a bit of difficulty battling against the volume of the recorded music initially, John Hester has an authoritative but friendly voice which is big enough for everyone to hear, and Ms Easterbrook has a delightful singing voice.
The action takes place in the control room of Santa's ice castle. Even though there's a talking machine called 'Santanav' that organises Santa's schedule, the setting is hardly high-tech. In fact, the set seems to be a relic from the late twentieth century with rather tired silver spray and cheap sparkly lights, but little else in the way of technical wizardry or creative invention. And the magic tricks, apparently provided by the 'legendary' magician, Paul Daniels, were few in number and were similarly resurrected from a bygone age – one was actually a version of a trick I found in my magic set one Christmas back in … well, a long time ago!
Audience participation is, of course, part of the traditionally-focused recipe here, so we all have to say hello to Charlie when he appears on stage, provide the sound effects for the reindeer and join in Songs like 'I Can Sing a Rainbow' which most people seemed to know. And, yes, I did join in!
The Ambassadors is an intimate theatre which is almost perfect for a small-scale show of this kind because it doesn't overwhelm the little people and they do not have to strain to see what is happening. The show is well-timed at just under an hour – long enough to enthral, but short enough to avoid fidgeting and distraction. I dodged out of the theatre as our row was being called to chat to Santa and collect presents – yes, everyone gets a gift from the star of the show, but as I did not collect mine, I cannot vouch for the quality. I doubt if a Rolex or an iPhone would be on offer because this is a show with a budget a fraction the size of the one for 'Matilda The Musical' which I saw a week or so ago. That might cause dissatisfaction for some, but the show is not actually pretending to be anything more than it is. Think of it more like an extended visit to Santa - with a couple of singing elves and a story thrown-in for good measure - rather than a trip to an expensive, glitzy musical, and you will be on the right lines.