When the film White Christmas appeared in 1954 it was not the first time that the plot and the songs had been used. Such was the success of Holiday Inn in the 1940s it was decided to reuse the material and shoot it in glorious technicolor. They even recycled its star Bing Crosby!
Such is the popularity of this warm hearted tale that the film is a regular feature of Christmas television and the DVD graces many a home collection.
In view of this it is no surprise that it is now reborn as a stage musical; not always a good thing but this adaptation works giving us an evening of real Hollywood glamour.
Any fears this would be a tacky touring production are dispelled from the first moment. The sets and costumes are colourful and pleasing to the eye. The four leading players have personalities that cross the footlights and draw you into the story which includes every cliché in the book but that doesn’t matter, it just adds to the charm. The show has humour, romance and pathos and the song and dance numbers are simply stunning. Act One closes with a terrific staging of ‘Blue Skies’ that is stylish and slickly choreographed; Aled Jones’s rendition is tremendous and the orchestra under Robert Scott really impresses.
And there is more to come in Act Two which opens with a brilliant Fred and Ginger tap routine from Adam Cooper and Louise Bowden that is top class. Another highlight is Amy Ellen Richardson’s ‘Love, you didn’t do right by me’.
Jones and Cooper make a great double act and the two girls, Bowden and Richardson, complete this quartet of performers who sing, dance and act with ease and class that carry the show from one delight to the next.
Ken Farrington provides great support as the General who hides his ol’ sentimental heart under his irascible manner and Kerry Washington standing in for Louise Plowright gives a performance of verve and humour in true Ethel Merman style. David Lucas as Mike plays the harassed stage manager to perfection and Phil Cole wrings every ounce of humour from very few words. Who knew that ‘yup’ could be so funny?
This production of Irving Berlin’s show has enough sparkle, pizazz, charm and warmth to please even the hardest of hearts. Great songs, winning performances, good to look at and slickly staged it is no wonder it gets a rapturous reception.
So as it looks like the weather is not going to oblige this year hurry on down to the Empire Theatre and have yourself a very merry White Christmas.
- Richard Woodward