Dominion Theatre, London – until 4 January 2019
Seen last Christmas at the Leicester Curve Theatre, Nikolai Foster’s exceptionally staged and completely charismatic production of White Christmas has taken its place in the West End for a Christmas of festivities and theatrical joy.
Based on the 1954 film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, the musical follows the stories of two former World War II American soldiers who became a famous musical duo. The pair use their fame to join forces with Judy and Betty to save a holiday inn from financial ruin and spread cheer all around.
The embodiment of glamour from start to finish, this musical whisks you away and takes you to a wintery wonderland where lullabies and tap dances reign supreme. The audience is enthralled, thanks to the intimate feeling which is somehow created in the vast cavern of the Dominion Theatre.
The story is nothing special and there’s really very little of it but there’s a level of characterisation which runs deep throughout and makes the audience really care about the action and people on stage and brings a contemporary feel to an otherwise un-relatable musical.
For example, Martha, Judy and Betty sing ‘Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun’ which highlights their desire to not being completely reliant on men. In another vein, the vulnerability of Bob (Danny Mac) is shown thoughtfully and delicately. Whilst at first he appears distant and uncaring, it soon becomes clear that he is struggling to rejoin civilian life. These human characteristics are realistically brought to stage with great effect.
The cast of all round triple threats provides enough energetic festive cheer to power all the Christmas lights in London. Clare Halse is a theatrical treasure as she draws the eye every moment she’s on stage and is the epitome of Hollywood glamour. Her performance is faultless as she glides around and radiates excellence. Halse also gives a dazzling tap performance of ‘I Love a Piano’ alongside Dan Burton and the ensemble.
Burton as Phil is equal measures charm and sleaze as well as giving top top top notch vocals and choreographic quality. Mac once again gives a faultless performance and has a great love/hate chemistry with Danielle Hope as Betty. Their blossoming romance is lovely to watch, just another level of sweetness in this candy-cane-sugary musical.
Michael Brandon is commanding but vulnerable as General Henry Waverly, whilst, Brenda Edwards is a compelling force of comedic nature as Martha and provides a real show stopping moment with ‘Let Me Sing and I’m Happy’. The ensemble are unanimously joyous and captivating throughout, with Aimée Hodnett and Kayleigh Thadani giving stand out performances as the ditzy, amorous Rhoda and Rita.
This is a visually exquisite musical which is the embodiment of production value. Diego Pitarch’s sumptuous costumes not only look beautiful on their own, but float and flow divinely as part of Stephen Mear’s choreography which is elegance and style wrapped up with a bow. The post-war era is brought to life glitteringly, as is the music of Irving Berlin which soars and fills the Dominion.
It’s not about the story and of course there are faults as with many classic films but this is an utterly lavish production which will fill even the Grinch’s heart with Christmas cheer.
photo credit: Johan Persson