Friday, 21 November 2014

White Christmas - Review

Dominion Theatre, London

****

Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives and Paul Blake
Directed by Morgan Young

Aled Jones and Tom Chambers

If your idea of a Christmas theatre visit trip is to enjoy warm, sweet festive fayre, then White Christmas' arrival in London is the perfect choice. Loosely (very loosely) based on the classic Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye movie, David Ives and Paul Blake have used Irving Berlin's songs as baubles to decorate their delightfully improbable plot. This new tale just about bears a passing resemblance to the movie's story of 4 troupers attempting to put on a show at a Vermont ski resort enjoying an unseasonal heat wave, as in the background the most sugary of romances sees true love blossom across the generations.

For so long an established part of Britain's Christmas TV tradition, it is only fitting that Aled Jones should descend from Walking In The Air to inherit Crosby's mantle. The square-jawed Welshman and Radio 2 regular gets the combination of cheese and charm spot on as his Bob Wallace gradually falls for singer Betty Haynes. Alongside Jones, Tom Chamber's fame is relatively recent - but this fabulously footed NYMT alumnus is fast becoming one of the West End's hottest properties when a show requires a flourish of traditional lavish Broadway with a generous dose of tap. He pulls off the Danny Kaye tribute as Phil Davis delightfully.

Opposite the men, Rachel Stanley smoulders as the beautifully indignant Betty, whilst Louise Bowden, playing her stage sister Judy, stuns with both movement and voice. Graham Cole (famously of Sun Hill nick) is prematurely aged to play General Waverley, whilst the deliciously lovable Wendi Peters gives a belt that has to be heard to be believed.

The songs are comfortably familiar gems. Sisters early in act one is a treat, whilst the first half's closing number, Blue Skies, is a masterpiece of a pinpoint ensemble routine, clad in the sharpest white suits. Youngster (on the night), Sophia Pettit delivers a suitably precocious Let Me Sing And I'm Happy with enough confidence in voice and dance to charm the (already sympathetic) crowd, whilst the second act moves inexorably towards an ending that couldn't be happier, as the by now warmed up audience are encouraged to join in with the record-breaking eponymous title number.

Whilst the sets are neat if a touch simple, the costumes are lavish and Randy Skinner's choreography is immaculately drilled (congratulations captains Grace Holdstock and Gary Murphy). Peter Wilson's 20 piece orchestra give Berlin's compositions a gorgeous lilt.

White Christmas is a show that's a snowfall of non-demanding loveliness - just like the ones we used to know.


Runs to 3rd January 2015

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