Flavin, McLachlan & Luft Premiere White ChristmasDate: 5 September 2006
The new stage version of Irving Berlin’s 1954 movie musical White Christmas will receive its European premiere this autumn at the Plymouth Theatre Royal, where it runs from 18 November to 2 December 2006 before a seasonal stint at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre from 7 December 2006 to 28 January 2007. Craig McLachlan and Tim Flavin lead the cast, along with Judy Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft and Dallas’ Ken Kercheval.
Second World War veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis are now partners in a song-and-dance act after the war. Looking for love, the two follow the Haynes’ sisters singing duo who have a Christmas gig at a Vermont lodge, which just happens to be owned by their former army commander, General Waverly. Unfortunately, times are hard for the general whose mountain retreat is suffering from lack of snow. Romantic entanglements and plenty of good intentions ensue as the singers try to find a solution for the general.
The 1954 film, which has become a fixture on the festive television schedule, was directed by Michael Curtiz and starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. The score includes the Academy Award-winning title song first featured in Berlin’s 1942 film, Holiday Inn, which also starred Crosby as well as Fred Astaire.
The stage adaptation had its world premiere in 2000 in St Louis and, following further revisions, was presented in San Francisco in 2004, then directed by Walter Bobbie for Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2005. On this side of the Atlantic, an earlier iteration was scheduled for a Christmas season at the West End’s Savoy Theatre in 2001, but was cancelled just weeks after its announcement (See News, 2 Jul 2001).
The new stage musical has a book by David Ives and Paul Blake, based on the Paramount Pictures screenplay, and features Irving Berlin songs including "Sisters", "Blue Skies", "Let Yourself Go," "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me", "Snow" and "Count Your Blessings" as well as the title number.
The Theatre Royal Plymouth production is directed by Barbara Epstein, choreographed by Randy Skinner and designed by Anna Louizos, with costumes by Carrie Robbins, lighting by Ken Billington, sound by Clement Rawling and orchestrations by Larry Blank. It’s presented by Michael Rose Ltd, Chris Moreno and the Mayflower with the Theatre Royal.
Speaking exclusively to Whatsonstage.com, producer Michael Rose said he hopes to bring White Christmas into the West End for a Christmas season at “one of the larger London theatres”, the ideal one being the London Palladium where he premiered the stage adaptation of another screen classic, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in 2002. However, he’s in no rush to transfer as he’s been “inundated by requests from cities around the country” who are also keen to take White Christmas. “It’s the perfect title for the West End, if not next Christmas, one year soon.”
Craig McLachlan (Grease, TV’s Neighbours, Home and Away and Bugs) and Tim Flavin (My One and Only, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Dames at Sea and On Your Toes, for which he won an Olivier) play Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, respectively. Lorna Luft (who brought her one-woman show Songs My Mother Taught Me to the West End two years ago) is Martha Watson and Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes from TV’s Dallas) is General Waverly, while Rachel Stanley and Emma Kate Nelson play the Haynes Sisters.
- by Terri Paddock