7 December 2021
It is maybe strange that it took until 2000 for the 1954 film of WHITE CHRISTMAS to be transferred to the stage. The much-loved movie is a regular feature of seasonal television and carries with it legions of fans. Ok, it’s not the greatest story ever put on the silver screen and it isn’t the greatest stage show either; detractors will point the finger at the thin story line and the slightly schmaltzy, sentimental storyline. However, it is inoffensive, somewhat charming and has the benefit of wonderful music and songs by Irving Berlin – and in this production by Leicester’s Curve Theatre, originally directed by Nikolai Foster, you have a production full of class.
The story of two song and dance soldiers and their mission to help their old General after the war by mounting a show for him, is simple enough; in order to elevate it above the norm, performances and production values need to be tip top. In this polished and slick show, you get all you could want and more.
The cast is universally first-rate with Matthew Jeans and Dan Burton excelling as Bob Wallace and Phil Davis; both possessed of wonderfully smooth singing voices and a great sense of timing. They put over their songs with an ease that is joyful to hear. Their love interest is provided by the equally impressive Emily Langham and Jessica Daley as Judy and Betty Haynes; the connection between the couples is potent and believable. What a thrill to have the highly experienced Sally Ann Triplett throwing all she has got at the part of hotel concierge Martha Watson – a powerhouse performance where side swipes are delivered with precision and skill. As the bluff General Waverly, Duncan Smith is at the heart of the story and his provides the audience with warmth, humanity and emotion. A lovely cameo from debutante Ella Kemp as the General’s granddaughter is a real crowdpleaser.
The whole company is top notch and full of lovely little cameo’s – I have to mention Kraig Thornber as Ezekiel – a scene-stealer of a performance if ever I saw one. Excellent.
There are more songs in the show than in the film – no bad thing at all – and the singing is so easy on the ear that it is like sitting by a warm fire when it’s really cold outside – full of comfort. The band is super and really well lead by Musical Director Neil Macdonald. I have complained a few times in recent visits to Plymouth about the poor sound balance – not an issue here, I could hear ever every word and every syllable of every word.
Michael Taylor’s designs are simple, but enormously effective and the cast move the stage furniture around with precision and whilst in mid-dance. The choreography by Stephen Mear is inventive, classy and impressive – the tap routine to ‘I Love A Piano’ is a thrilling highlight. All is complemented by the costume designs of Diego Pitarch and Mark Henderson’s magical lighting design.
The current director Ian Talbot has squeezed every ounce of entertainment from the show and the whole cast have come up trumps. This is old-fashioned theatre in many ways – there are no special effects, no video wall, no deafening of the audience – oh how refreshing!
A production of the highest quality and one which is a perfect tonic for the present times. The audience absolutely love it – and the added treat at the end is very much the icing on the cake. If you have the Christmas (or indeed any other type) Blues – then go and see this lovely, warming piece of theatre.
CAST & CREATIVES
BOB WALLACE – MATTHEW JEANS
PHIL DAVIS – DAN BURTON
BETTY HAYNES – JESSICA DALEY
JUDY HAYNES – EMILY LANGHAM
MARTHA WATSON – SALLY ANN TRIPLETT
GENERAL WAVERLY – DUNCAN SMITH
SUSAN WAVERLY – ELLA KEMP
RALPH SHELDRAKE – PHILIP BERTIOLI
RITA – KAYLEIGH THADANI
RHODA – MEG DARCY
EZEKIEL – KRAIG THORNBER
MIKE – MARTIN MCCARTHY
ED SULLIVAN – BENJAMIN MUNDAY
TESSIE – ISABEL CANNING
JIMMY – SAM HOLDEN
MARTY – JOSHUA LOVELL
MARK – FREDDIE CLEMENTS
SCOOTER – OLIVER RAMSDALE
ETHEL – KIRSTY FULLER
LORETTA – AOIFE KENNY
ENSEMBLE – IMOGEN BOWTELL, ADAM DENHAM, BETH DEVINE, ASHTON HARKNESS, MATT HOLLAND, SAMUEL JOHN-HUMPHREYS
MUSIC AND LYRICS – IRVING BERLIN
BOOK – DAVID IVES & PAUL BLAKE
ORIGINAL DIRECTOR – NIKOLAI FOSTER
DIRECTOR – IAN TALBOT
CHOREOGRAPHY – STEPHEN MEAR
SET DESIGN – MICHAEL TAYLOR
COSTUME DESIGN – DIEGO PITARCH
LIGHTING DESIGN – MARK HENDERSON
SOUND DESIGN – TOM MARSHALL
CURVE THEATRE, LEICESTER PRODUCTION