Shropshire Star

Bad Education: A Christmas Carol – Three ghosts and a funeral in a musical extravaganza

Many of us will have fond memories of those final days at school before Christmas – class parties, watching films instead of reading textbooks and winding down for a nice couple of weeks off until the new year.

ictured: L-R: Stephen (LAYTON WILLIAMS), Alfie (JACK WHITEHALL), Mitchell (CHARLIE WERNHAM). P

For Class K at Abbey Grove, the last day of term is wilder than anything many of us have experienced: a singing, dancing extravaganza in which the drama teacher stages his own funeral.

It would not be a Bad Education Christmas without a dose of mayhem, and this year brings original songs and choreography in a musical special that tells a Dickens-inspired tale.

Drama teacher Stephen, played by Layton Williams, is about to head off for a new job in a pantomime and stages his own funeral to hear what the school will say about him after he is gone.

But he is met by the ghost of Alfie Wickers, played by Jack Whitehall, who tells him he will be visited by three more ghosts to show him the error of his ways and help him make an important decision about his career at Abbey Grove school.

“The Bad Education Christmas special is an all-singing, all-dancing Christmas spectacular,” says Whitehall, 35, who created the sitcom.

“It was originally my idea but Layton in particular has done a lot of the heavy lifting when it came to delivering my vision.

“I am tone deaf and have two left feet so we really let him take front and centre with this episode and it’s a wonderful opportunity for him to shine.

“And obviously Alfie is back, albeit slightly differently than viewers might expect…”

“Oh, my God, I have been rooting for a musical episode from day dot, as you can imagine,” adds Williams, 29, who has also been on our screens this festive season as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.

“We finally got the moment. We’re doing a play on A Christmas Carol and, of course, I’m Scrooge.

“For most of the massive dance numbers, I’m watching Mitchell and the kids in Class K dance about.

“It was so magical and I was so proud of them. They properly committed to it and I’m really excited for people to see it because you’re seeing people in a different light.

“Like Jack Whitehall singing and dancing – ish. I would say ish! And Mat Horne, he killed it.

“I just remember being like, I’m witnessing Mat Horne jump and sing about in his crazy wig, what more could you want for Christmas?”

While the episode tells a Bad Education version of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, it was actually the musical element that came first.

“It was more that we wanted it to be a musical than we wanted it to be A Christmas Carol,” says Charlie Wernham, 29, who plays former pupil-turned-PE teacher Mitchell Harper.

“Once we realised that the three ghosts would lend themselves nicely to three good numbers, I think it worked out really well.

“And with the underlying story with Stephen, I always find that he always wants more than Abbey Grove… he doesn’t really see what he’s got in front of him.

“So I think it actually lent itself really nicely to that story.

“It’s something that’s been done so many times, it’s just so cool to see it done in Bad Education. I just don’t think anyone will really expect it.”

Of course, the logistics of making a musical sitcom are anything but straightforward. Combining acting, singing and dancing is no mean feat but Williams says his cast mates rose spectacularly to the challenge.

“I don’t think people realise how different dancing, singing and acting all at the same time is,” he says of the challenge of making a musical.

“It’s sink or swim and everyone rose to the challenge!

“I got to basically watch everyone be amazing because I was being Scrooge and pretty miserable most of the episode.

“So I’m stood there, itching to really be giving it all out, but I’m there giving it sulk, sulk, sulking while people are all dancing around me.”

“I did a tiny bit of dancing,” says Wernham.

“I don’t know if you know but Layton’s actually a pretty good dancer as well!” he jokes.

“So he did a bit. Everyone did their bit. Class K literally threw themselves into it and they kind of made me look great at the end.”

This musical episode has been a long time coming.

As Williams mentioned, he has been campaigning for a Bad Education musical since the start, and he has finally got his wish – perhaps to the chagrin of his castmates.

“As someone who doesn’t sing or dance, I was happy to sit this one out,” says Wernham.

“But actually, we worked out a way where Mitchell was in his own story. We thought about what Mitchell’s dream Christmas would be and it was a Die Hard Christmas.

“So we ended up having two ends of the spectrum – the singing and dancing, and then Mitchell running around beating up German foreign exchange students, and that coming together and colliding is really fun.

“But also, the Class K kids are super talented, they’re all triple threat, so seeing them throw themselves into the musical numbers was amazing…

“There’s a whole song about Mitchell, which I absolutely love. I don’t think Stephen’s got his own song. I like to rub that in a little bit!”

Bad Education: A Christmas Carol airs on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer from December 13 at 9pm

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