★★★★★ | White Christmas, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
Army pals turned song and dance men, Phil Davies and Bob Wallace, are on their way to Florida for Christmas, when they stop by at Jimmy’s Nightclub to audition Betty and Judy Haynes, a sister act, for their new show. For Phil and Judy, it is love at first sight, but for Bob and Betty, it is a frosty start. Phil secretly swaps their train tickets and the pair follow the sisters to Vermont, where they are booked to play at the hotel which is owned by Phil and Bob’s former Army General, and, which is on the brink of closing. Calling in favours from their showbiz contacts and their old army pals, Phil and Bob try to put on a show to save the hotel and make it a Christmas to remember, but, as Bob Wallace discovers, falling in love can be very distracting.
Written by Irving Berlin, and containing a number of classic songs, including Love And The Weather, Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me, Sisters, You’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm and, of course, White Christmas, this feel-good Christmas story is welcomed back to the stage in a simply brilliant production by West Yorkshire Playhouse.
The production contained a well-rounded and consistently solid cast throughout, with the vocal performances across the board being of a very high quality. Melanie La Barrie belted out Let me Sing and I’m Happy, somehow seeming to channel the spirit of Ethel Merman into her performance. Darren Day was much better vocally than expected in his understated performance, but the standout cast member was Oliver Tompsett, whose charisma filled turn as Phil Davies showcased his ability to sing, dance, act and take on the comedy aspect of his role superbly.
The set allowed the stage to open up into an abundance of space to undertake the well-choreographed and enthusiastically performed set pieces. There was a real tinge of 1950’s Americana in the costumes, certain aspects of the set, and the large set pieces; which were reminiscent of the old MGM Musicals. The on stage orchestra were spot on and the sound in the theatre was crisp, clear and well balanced between vocals and orchestra.
If pushed to find fault with the production, the dancing in the set pieces could have been slightly tighter and the set did seem a touch sparse at times, but with a production that was so enjoyable, such quibbles seem slightly unfair.
This is certainly one of the theatrical highlights of the year for me, and notwithstanding the twee nature of the show itself, you can’t beat a bit of good, old fashioned, family friendly and feel good entertainment at this time of the year.
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is currently playing at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds until the 17th January 2015. For information, to book tickets or for details of their new season, visit their website at http://www.wyp.org.uk
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.