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White Christmas (Southampton - tour)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is a wonderfully old fashioned show relying purely on talent. There are plenty of recognisable songs to transport you back to the original Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye 1954 film (“White Christmas”, “Count Your Blessings”, “Blue Skies”, “Sisters”). The plot is a modified version of the durable let’s-put-on-a-show formula used in the film and although totally predictable is thoroughly entertaining and superbly executed.

Bob Wallace Aled Jones and Phil Davis Adam Cooper are ex-servicemen buddies who have become a top Broadway performing duo. Bob is shy and Phil is an outright philanderer and as the story unfolds two sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes, Amy Ellen Richardson and Lousie Bowden attract their attention both musically and romantically. They put on a show at a Vermont Hotel that just happens to belong to their beloved former General who has been struggling to make ends meet since the end of the Second World War.

Aled Jones although vocally pure does not portray a believable love interest, nor does his dancing quite match up to the incredible cast he leads. In contrast Adam Cooper dances in Astaire style, captivating both his audience and his leading lady with his sheer, lithe athleticism and charisma. Both lading ladies deliver glamorously polished and strong performances.

Martha Watson Louise Plowright the loveable, loyal Concierge at the Inn, who has her sights set on the General, is played with verve and perfect comic timing, a consummate professional. The General Ken Farrington masters the character of an aging Army General who is finding it difficult to embrace civilian life. The General’s showbiz-smitten granddaughter Carla Arnold oozes accomplished confidence and is a young lady to watch in the future.

Randy Skinner’s choreography is inspired. The big ensemble numbers display sheer genius, footwork in perfect unison tapping and swirling through each routine effortlessly.

Robert Scott directs his consummate orchestra with gusto and passion, never once drowning the solo artists, which can so often be the case.

Lighting and set changes are slick and seamless conveying colour and atmosphere throughout. Numerous, lavish colour co-ordinated costumes and matching shoes add to the spectacle. On a personal note I feel the smaller sets are a little cramped and viewing from the Circle minimise them further. I imagine these are used as camouflage for set changes behind.

Yes it is hammy, yes it is sugar sweet, yes it is old hat, but this show certainly arouses the spirit of Christmas and has a ‘curl up by the fire and drink hot cocoa’ sort of feel to it, especially when snow showers accompany the finale. You will leave the theatre with a smile on your face and a warm glow within.


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