White Christmas

Date 23rd November 2016
Society Starlight Theatre Productions
Venue Tyne Theatre, Newcastle
Type of Production Musical
Director Val Shield
Musical Director Andrew Soulsby
Choreographer Val Shield

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Author: Michael Avery

I tend to assume that, like me, everybody has seen the film “White Christmas” often and is familiar with the Irving Berlin songs which pepper this stage version.  That is probably less true nowadays. To me, there were 6 familiar songs in Act 1 and 3 more, plus reprises, in Act 2.  So, to quote a song, “I’m Happy”.
 
Set just after World War 2, plot is minimal.  It involves a vaudeville duo mounting a show, in snowy Vermont, to save the roadhouse of their former commanding officer, plus a little romance.  The songs are really the attraction, especially when the audience is invited to join in “White Christmas”.
 
Michael James Brown is Bob Wallace; James Forster, his partner, Phil Davis - and a fine all-singing, all-dancing comedy duo they made.  On the distaff side, The Haynes Sisters were played by Rebecca Watson and Lucy Sutton.  Again, all-singing, all-dancing.  Together, the four of them made a fine quartet, even if the road to romance proves a little rocky.  Inevitably, the numbers they perform are, perhaps, a little old-fashioned but none the worse for that.  Tunes like “Blue Skies”, “Let Yourself Go”, “Count Your Blessings”, “I Love a Piano”, “Sisters”, “How Deep is the Ocean”, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” litter the production.

General Waverley and Martha Watson, were played by the always reliable Brian Barry and Katie Howes; the manipulative Rita and Rhoda (Alison Gilroy and Danielle Mendes), manic stage manager Mike (David Rawlings), mumbling stagehand Ezekial (Ken Anderson) all make amusing contributions.  Katie, made the role of Martha entirely her own and sings up a storm.  Another highlight is the impressive young Kady Martin as the General’s granddaughter, Susan.  She has a bright future ahead of her.

The chorus/dancers, provided continuity, character and movement, filling their roles perfectly – after all, they, mainly, play a bunch of thespians!  Sets were minimal, mainly backcloths creating easy transitions.  I did, however, feel the big, Tyne Theatre stage occasionally looked rather empty.  Costumes, hairdos, wigs (if any) reflected the late ’40s period well.  Clearly, all on stage enjoyed themselves and that transfered easily to the audience.  Congratulations to Val Shield on her directorial debut (as well as her choreography); dance captain Jenn Rouse and MD Andrew Soulsby.  When the orchestra got a chance to blow, they certainly took it.  All in all, a most enjoyable evening.