book by David Ives and Paul Blake music and lyrics by Irving Berlin based on the Paramount film written by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, Melvin Frank.
West Yorkshire Playhouse (Quarry Theatre) Quarry Hill LS2 7UP To 24 January 2015.
2pm 2, 3, 8, 15, 17, 22, 24 Jan.
7.30pm 2, 3, 68, 10, 14-17, 22-24 Jan.
Runs2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 0113 213 7700.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 December.
It fitted with its time, 1954, did Michael Curtiz’s film White Christmas. Or Irving Berlin’s White Christmas as the publicity had it. For the film, a post-war questioning what had happened to the heroes and joint purpose of army days, was a further chance to exploit one of Berlin’s biggest hits. Bing Crosby had first sung ‘White Christmas’ in 1942’s Holiday Inn, on which the later film, with its overall similarity of plot-line, leaned heavily.
But, whatever it meant during the days of President Dwight D Eisenhower (who, unlike White Christmas’s Major General Thomas F Waverly had found a role, if not much of a purpose, in post-war America), the musical has little point for a later day. A new book, written around Berlin’s numbers, doesn’t help, or not enough.
And those numbers are far from the composer’s best. Title song apart, only the sassy ‘Sisters’, with a neat sting-in-the–tail of its lyric, holds any musical interest. The rest might be smart tries from a lesser composer, but they’re not the stuff to sustain a major reputation.
Darren Day and Oliver Tompsett deliver personable performances, without touching the super-gloss wit and individuality of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye on celluloid. There’s perfectly decent choreography and singing – or sound amplification, which is the modern equivalent. But technology, again, replaces individuality with standardised refinement. It’s all very cute, but devoid of personality.
What really kills the piece (although not, it must be said, for the generally enthusiastic audience, and, likely enough, the people who have booked enough seats for a week’s extension to the original schedule), is its awkward structure in the theatre. Cinematic fluidity effortlessly accommodates a major character’s brief departure for scenes in New York. On stage the episode lumbers pointlessly past. Theatre can’t match the old regiment’s arrival at the troubled hotel their beloved ex-commander runs; nor can the eventual falling of a thin snow shower match the screen’s climactic climate change.
Dramatically superficial and effortful, despite some very strong efforts, it’s hard to see why this piece has suddenly become such a popular choice in recent years.
Tessie/Seamstress: Moyo Akandè.
Jimmy/Mark: Simon Anthony.
Scooter: Robbie Boyle.
Ralph Sheldrake/Jim: James Darch.
Judy Haynes: Holly Dale Spencer.
Bob Wallace: Darren Day.
Gloria/Cigarette Girl: Rebecca Giacopazzi.
Marty/Train Conductor: Matthew Hawksley.
Mike/Ed Sullivan Announcer: Samuel Holmes.
Rhoda/Mrs Snoring Lady: Kirby Hughes.
General Henry Waverly: Andrew Jarvis.
Martha Watson: Melanie La Barrie.
Ezekiel Foster: Siôn Tudor Owen.
Phil Davis: Oliver Tompsett.
Connie/Ralph Sheldrake’s Secretary: Michelle White.
Betty Haynes: Emma Williams.
Rita: Lucy Williamson.
Director: Nikolai Foster.
Designer: Matthew Wright.
Lighting: Guy Hoare.
Sound Sebastian Frost.
Orchestrator: Jason Carr.
Musical Director: Tom Kelly.
Choreographer: Nick Winston.
Dialect coach: Rick Lipton.
Assistant director: Tom Birch.
Assistant Musical director: Jan Winstone.