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White Christmas (Salford)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Irving Berlin's White Christmas is well known for that song and iconic images of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye dressed in Santa suits with their gals, played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen in tow as they all croon about "sleighbells in the snow."

So how does the stage version which has wowed 'em in San Francisco and currently on the Great White Way fare? Thankfully, even though elements of this glossy show are filled with saccharine, most of the cast bring such passion and verve to the piece that this musical leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy and entertains you on so many levels.

The only cast member who falters slightly is Aled Jones as Bob Wallace - part of a song and dance duo with Phil Davis (Adam Cooper). The reason being that, unlike Cooper who dances like a dream and delivers crisp 'old-school' style vocals, Jones excels vocally but when it comes to dancing and acting, he is outclassed by the entire cast. Part of the problem is that he looks uncomfortable and quite relieved when he gets the chance to stand still.

Thankfully though, Cooper has enough charm and talent for the two of them and has genuine chemistry with the superb Suzanne Shaw who plays his love interest Judy Haynes. She too proves to be incredibly versatile, dancing as impeccably here as she did on ice in the hit ITV1 show. As her sister Betty, Rachel Stanley brings old time glamour and a rich tone to the musical numbers.

The plot is very thin, as in reality it just serves as an excuse to get the two couples together and sing the title song. But throw in war, comedy and the 'let's put on a show' element and this musical feels as comfy and warm as a favourite pair of slippers.

Louise Plowright gives it all she's got as the wannabe starlet who has not quite missed the showboat yet. Having previously played Donna in Mamma Mia! she knows how to belt out the big numbers and her comic timing is a joy to behold. The excellent ensemble are electric and during the tap scenes really bring the stage alive with their exuberant turns, taking you back in time with ease.

Anna Louizos' magnificent set is vast and the scene changes although quite slow at times, takes you on a journey and bring colour and scale to the narrative.

The 17-piece orchestra gives this show an epic quality that overcomes a lacklustre turn from one of the leads in spectacular fashion. Put it this way, if you do not feel quite Christmassey enough yet, an evening spent at the Lowry will soon leave you feeling like it's a wonderful life.

As for the popular song that you know and love, yes it's here with an added bonus; snow! In short, White Christmas is a heart-warming hit.

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