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White Christmas

Date

30th November 2017

Society

Liz Turnbull

Venue

Carnegie Theatre Workington

Type of Production

Musical

Director

Tony McGee

Musical Director

Stephen Hunter-Brown

Choreographer

Natasha McKenzie

Report

Author: Martin Craig

 

Based on the film of the same title, “White Christmas” follows the story of Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, old army pals who, once the war is over, become a successful double act and are booked to perform in Miami for Christmas. Before going, Phil persuades Bob to join him in watching a sister act in "Jimmy`s Back Room"-a night club. This is where they meet Betty and Judy Haynes, Phil and Judy hit it off straight away, but the girls are booked to play in Vermont. Bob and Betty don`t hit it off straight away, but no matter, as Bob will be off to Miami …… that is, until Phil devises a plan to get all four of them to Vermont. Needless to say, Bob isn`t too happy about the change of plan, but starts to mellow, and all four of them set out to rescue their former Army commander General Waverly (who happens to own the hotel they`re booked into) from bankruptcy by putting on a Broadway-style show in his barn.

Fans of the original film will not be disappointed by the screen to stage adaptation, especially as it has songs in it that were actually in the film-unlike many other modern day film to stage conversions, providing us with hit after hit of the music of Irving Berlin.

Tony McGee and Andrew McMinn took on the roles of Bob Wallace and Phil Davies, with Tony`s more responsible and fatherly Bob bouncing off Andrew`s more exuberant Phil. Their relationship both whilst in “performance mode as the double act” and as friends worked well, with Tony`s laid back style and experience managing to rein in Andrew on the occasions when lines between performance mode and friends became blurred.

The ladies, Betty Haynes and Judy Haynes (Kimberley Fisher and Philippa Hawley) blended well with each other and made perfect foils for their respective partners. Kimberley`s  “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” was delivered beautifully and was one of the highlights for me.

Norman Brayton played General Henry Waverly with style and authority, with Amelia Crawford playing his granddaughter Susan, with a confidence belying her years-all it needed was an ice skating scene to show off her many talents.

Highlight of the show for me throughout was Martha Watson played by Keri Farish - what can I say but wow, just wow!!! Impeccable comic timing, acerbic wit and the delivery in her songs was just brilliant- you really could believe that she was an ex-Broadway star, in fact, you could believe that she IS a Broadway star- whilst writing this, I have ran out of superlatives, so will just say it again, wow!!!

Rhoda and Rita, (The Cheeky Girls of the piece) were played with a great sense of fun by Natasha McKenzie and Chelsea Fisher.

All of the other roles were well played and gave great support to the principals, including Graham Hawley (Ralph Sheldrake), Mark Stilwell (Mike) and Daniel MacCreedy as Ezekiel.

Chorus numbers were executed well, and considering the energetic choreography, with relish.

The staging was basically a giant video wall permanently sat at the back of the stage, with each scene`s backdrop being shown on it, and props being carried on/taken off rather than the use of trucks/full sets. Using this meant that the whole depth of the stage could be used for every scene, and no need for bringing curtains in to change the scene/setting, as this could be done at the flick of a switch. The screen was utilised best for the moving train sequence, and of course, the snow scene finale. My initial view was that some of the backdrops were a bit `cartoony`, but to be honest, was forgotten about within a few seconds of the scene starting.

I think that the use of this technology has many positives, especially as you`re not losing any stage depth through the use of cloths, but a possible negative is the loss of intimacy for some of the one on one scenes-as intimacy can be caused by the confinement of the surroundings. That said, the video wall did make the train scene a lot more realistic and made for slicker, tighter scene changes, which is always a plus.

This show is a real “Song and Dance” show, and doesn`t work if they don`t work.

There was no fear of that, with the orchestra under the baton of Stephen Hunter-Brown giving a rich, sumptuous sound to Berlin`s score, and Natasha McKenzie`s Busby Berkley-esque sharp choreography complementing the whole piece.

Tony McGee must be happy with this production, and rightly so- I don`t `do` audience singing…..but for this feel-good show, and just at the right time of year, I may have hummed a line or two, and maybe even sang a verse!

Right, I`m off to get my pipe and slippers and decorate the tree.

Thank you, Workington Amateur Operatic Society for your invite, and your excellent hospitality.