Versatile director and Disney doyen Barbara Epstein makes her directorial debut in the UK with the stage version of Irving Berlin’s much-loved White Christmas and ‘success’ is stamped all over the feel-good, glossy spectacular.
The audience gets everything it came for: the well-known songs (including “Sisters”, “Blue Skies”, “How Deep is the Ocean?” and the eponymous “White Christmas”), dancing galore, a plot that hardly challenges the grey matter, superb costumes, a 17-piece orchestra and plenty of pzazz.
Broadway veteran Carrie Robbins’ rich costume design captures the 50s but the highlight for me is Anna Louizos’ fantastic set. Dressing rooms smart and dowdy, the Vermont barn and clapperboard hotel inside and out, the train, bar and nightclub: the changes are slick, the detail spectacular and the effect breath-taking.
Former Neighbours Craig McLachlan is excellent as cynical crooner Bob and his fine tenor steals the show with Lorna Luft (daughter of Judy Garland and producer Sid Luft) a close second as the wise-cracking Merman-esque housekeeper Martha. TV star Bob and ladies’ man hoofer Phil (four-times Olivier Award nominee Tim Flavin) wind up in snowless Vermont plotting the show that will reverse the fortunes of the hotelier, their former beloved General (Dallas’ Ken Kercheval).
The love interest is provided by singing sisters Betty and Judy Haynes (West End regular Rachel Stanley and Emma Kate Nelson) and the comedy mainly through cameo roles from My Hero’s Phil Cole. Young Katie Reynolds, who alternates with Bessie Cursons, is powerful as grand-daughter Susie, who assists the song and dance duo to put together a Christmas the General will remember.
Award-winning director, choreographer and performer, known best for 42nd Street, Randy Skinner, assisted by Sara Brians, has choreographed a stunning show of true Rodgers and Hammerstein proportions – this is all the glitz of Hollywood at its best brought to the stage as the ensemble taps its way through number after number.
White Christmas is a show which will attract musical lovers of all ages who want a frothy, nostalgic evening out.
– Karen Bussell (reviewed at Theatre Royal Plymouth)