“There’s no Christmas in the army!” But the festive season has well and truly arrived at the Dominion Theatre, where Leicester Curve’s production of White Christmas has transferred for a limited engagement this Christmas and New Year. Danny Mac & Dan Burton transfer with the show, reprising their roles as Bob Wallace & Phil Davis, and are joined by Michael Brandon (General Waverley), Danielle Hope (Betty Haynes), Clare Halse (Judy Haynes), and Brenda Edwards (Martha Watson).
Ten years after performing for their fellow soldiers during World War Two, Captain Bob Wallace and Private Phil Davis have made it big on Broadway; their names are known all over town and they’re just about to start putting their new show together. Another member of their division from the war has invited them to watch his sisters’ act, to see if it has potential for the new show, so they squeeze in a visit to the club before their train to Florida; the performance goes down well, but as soon as Phil suggests that Bob ought to get a bit of romance in his life things start to go downhill… Judy and Phil get on like a house on fire and, despite Bob and Betty clashing, they conspire to get them all spending more time together – so, instead of Florida, Phil gets him & Bob on the same train to Vermont as Betty & Judy, but things start to look up when Bob realises who owns the inn where they’ll be staying.
With a title like White Christmas, and music & lyrics from the legendary Irving Berlin, this show pretty much does what it says on the tin. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing festive treat, full of showbiz razzmatazz and a little bit of romance thrown in for good measure – though with the memories of war lurking in the background, there is a dark edge that offsets the Technicolor world of the 1950s. The book (David Ives & Paul Blake), though not without the odd twist & turn, is largely quite predictable – but would you really want anything else from a Christmas show?
Michael Taylor’s set is spectacular, particularly the multitude of neon signs that just scream New York when they light up across the stage. It certainly helps to make the show feel like it fits in the Dominion; for a reasonable chunk of it a smaller venue would work just as well, but the potential for showstopper moments here make it worthwhile. My favourite moment of the night, without a shadow of a doubt, is I Love a Piano: Phil, Judy and the ensemble tapdancing in gorgeous monochrome costumes on and around a piano. You can’t get much better than that! Stephen Mear’s choreography is as spot-on as you would expect throughout the show – an old school flavour, performed with great verve.
The large ensemble fills the room with energy, and turns out some great performances. Erin Rushidi (on as the General’s granddaughter, Susan) definitely steals a few scenes, especially when she gets her audition number sorted, and Brenda Edwards – alongside her as Martha – is also terrific value as she seeks to recapture the glory of her singing & dancing days. Clare Halse particularly shines in her big tap number (as you might expect from a recent Peggy Sawyer!), as well as working brilliantly with onstage sister Danielle Hope – she performs Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me with great feeling. Dan Burton and Danny Mac are the perfect double act as Phil and Bob; their teamwork & comedy skills are showcased hilariously as the pair reprise Sisters when Judy & Betty go AWOL in rehearsals. Burton plays the class clown with an eye for the ladies, and Mac has charm & charisma to spare – some awkward encounters between Bob & Judy notwithstanding.
My verdict? The ideal way to find your festive spirit – and get your hopes up for a real white Christmas…
White Christmas runs at the Dominion Theatre until 4 January 2020. Tickets are available online or from the box office.