Even before the days of climate change, having enough snow at Christmas time in Vermont to go for a sleigh ride wasn’t guaranteed, though a number of Vermont ski resorts continue to operate successfully to this day. This does, at least, put some context to the notion of “dreaming of a white Christmas”. It’s slightly extraordinary that this theatrical adaptation of the White Christmas 1954 motion picture did not materialise until 2000, but since then there have been numerous productions on both sides of the Atlantic, and with such charm and seasonal appeal, it’s easy to see why.
As with the film, the musical launches into the title number within about three minutes in – the scene is set quickly, with a brief announcement from President Franklin Roosevelt made on 8 December 1941 about the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, followed by a rapid skip to Christmas 1944, where General Henry Waverly (Garry Robson) is about to leave his current posting on the Western Front, having been reassigned. Setting aside what is already known about the strength of feeling the men under Waverly’s command have of their leader from the movie, it is not until well into the second half, the show having long since moved its narrative to 1954, that the lyrics “We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go… Because we love him” ring out.
The costumes (Diego Pitarch) are largely stunning and beautiful, partly because the emphasis is on putting on a show: Bob Wallace (Danny Mac) and Phil Davis (Dan Burton), having entertained fellow troops during World War Two, sought to continue being on stage, and have made quite a success of it in the intervening years, though quite when their big break came through is not made clear. Like 42nd Street, an intensive rehearsal period for the show Wallace and Davis will shortly be opening allows for some song and dance numbers to take place for seemingly no other reason than for the audience to relax and enjoy some classy choreography (Stephen Mear) and a seven-piece band, sometimes visible on stage, led by Neil MacDonald.
There’s no escaping, however, that the narrative is a tad slow overall – that’s the trade-off with a show like this whose plotline comes to a shuddering halt so the audience can enjoy some singing and dancing, dancing and singing. But so what? There’s much to enjoy with a capital E. The venue and hotel run by Waverly is not doing so great, financially speaking, though the concierge, Martha Watson (Wendy Mae Brown) is doing her best to keep smiling through. Brown was the stand-out performance for me, though I couldn’t think of anyone in this cast who didn’t have good stage presence. The General’s granddaughter, Susan Waverly (at the performance I attended, Georgia Stewart: the child role is shared with Ellie Copping, Lucie Ellard and Macy Grundy) steals the show with her own ambitions of stardom, and the performers booked to provide evening entertainment at the venue, Betty (Emma Williams) and Judy Haynes (Monique Young), ooze more than enough warmth and love to melt a heart of stone.
This is a slick, sharp and sophisticated alternative to the many pantomimes out there during the holiday season. ‘Alternative’ is the operative word – for a show of this title, one would have thought there would be more songs about Christmas than about showbusiness rather than the other way around. A show like this can’t seem to win, however – using more of those Christmas songs that have been played to death and then some over the years may have been seen as a bit lazy. This production might be, for some, as fake as the ‘snow’ that falls on both cast and (some) members of the audience as the show draws to an end, but it is nonetheless a spectacular, polished and elegant work of art.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Based on the Paramount Pictures film of the same name starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and book by David Ives and Paul Blake, White Christmas tells the story of Veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis and their successful song-and-dance act after World War II. With romance in mind, the two follow a duo of beautiful singing sisters en route for their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge, which just happens to be owned by Bob and Phil’s former Army commander. Featuring a dazzling, instantly recognisable score including Blue Skies, Sisters, Count your Blessings and arguably the most famous Christmas song of them all, White Christmas, Irving Berlin’s beloved Broadway sensation is an enduring tale of friendship, camaraderie, hope and the pursuit of happiness, told through spectacular dance routines and some of the greatest musical theatre songs ever written.
The production stars Danny Mac as Bob Wallace, Emma Williams as Betty Haynes, Dan Burton as Phil Davis and Monique Young as Judy Haynes.
DIRECTED BY NIKOLAI FOSTER
CHOREOGRAPHED BY STEPHEN MEAR
SCENIC DESIGN BY MICHAEL TAYLOR
COSTUME DESIGN BY DIEGO PITARCH
LIGHTING DESIGN BY MARK HENDERSON
SOUND DESIGN BY TOM MARSHALL
ORIGINAL ORCHESTRATIONS BY LARRY BLANK
VOCAL AND DANCE ARRANGEMENTS BY BRUCE POMAHAC
RE-ORCHESTRATIONS BY JASON CARR
MUSICAL SUPERVISION BY STEPHEN BROOKER
MUSICAL DIRECTION BY NEIL MACDONALD
DANNY MAC – Bob Wallace
EMMA WILLIAMS – Betty Haynes
MONIQUE YOUNG – Judy Haynes
DAN BURTON – Phil Davis
GARRY ROBSON – General Henry Waverly
WENDY MAE BROWN – Martha Watson
MICHAEL ANDERSON – Marty
DELYCIA BELGRAVE – Rita
CHANTEL BELLEW – Loretta
LUKE BYRNE – Mark
SOPHIE CAMBLE – Gale
ROGER DIPPER – Ralph Sheldrake
NICHOLAS DUNCAN – Jim
DAVIDE FIENAURI – Scooter
NIA JERMIN – Gloria
ROBBIE MCMILLAN – Dean
JO MORRIS – Connie
SAM MURPHY – Mike
ALEX TRANTER – Jimmy
SION TUDOR OWEN – Ezekiel Foster
ALEXANDRA WAITE-ROBERTS – Tessie
BLEU WOODWARD – Rhoda
ELLIE COPPING – Susan Waverly
LUCIE ELLARD – Susan Waverly
MACY GRUNDY – Susan Waverly
GEORGIA STEWART Susan Waverly
THU 6 DEC 2018 – SUN 13 JAN 2019
60 Rutland St, Leicester LE1 1SB