By Isla Watton and Holly Carter
Guests were greeted at the Dominion Theatre on Wednesday night by a shower of fake snow pouring out of the front of the building. This festive display perfectly established the mood for the evening ahead.
Set in the 1950s, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas follows the story of Phil Davis (Tom Chambers) and Bob Wallis (Aled Jones), two ex-army pals with a flair for putting on a good show, who now work as successful entertainers. When Christmas is just around the corner, a chance encounter with two alluring showgirls and sister (Rachel Stanley and Louise Bowden) leads the foursome on a journey to Vermont and a run in with an old army general who has fallen on hard times. Catchy and festive songs guide the audience through a race to make an old hero’s Christmas dreams come true.
The classic movie is transformed into a glittering stage production under the direction of Morgan Young and is full to the brim with sparkle, feel-good songs, fake snow and festive cheer. Some great vocal performances lead the cast, Louise Bowden and Tom Chambers in particular captivated the audience with their duets and high energy dance numbers and were complemented well by the powerhouse that was Wendi Peters as the lovable and feisty innkeeper, Martha Watson. Peters was the Christmas cracker of the production, overshadowing the rest with a perfect balance of humour, charm, fantastic singing and a truly emotional performance. Aled Jones plays the hero of the story, Bob Wallace, and is almost too adorable to be believable as a cheesy 1950s entertainer. When compared to his partner (Chambers), he seems far more likely to be found in front of a fire, in a blanket, reading a story than fronting a chorus line. He gives a sweet, caring and understated performance and has the audience rooting for him at every turn. A highlight of the show is the slow song ‘Count Your Blessings,’ performed by Aled Jones with Rachel Stanley, which is set on the porch of the Inn at night. A lovely moment in a largely upbeat production which is mirrored in Act Two with ‘Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me/ How Deep Is The Ocean’ which showcases Stanley’s sultry vocal talents.
Group numbers with the whole cast throughout and quick scene changes keep the audience on their toes and Set Designer Anna Louizos did well to capture the myriad of different locations. The train scene was particularly effective coupled with Costume Design by Carrie Robbins. Indeed, the costumes throughout were everything you could ask for from a Christmas production: gaudy, glamorous and glitzy. Visually, White Christmas was nothing spectacular, but the design did the job of evoking that holiday feeling. This sentiment was true of the production as a whole, a nice evening out, but perhaps not one that will stick with you for years to come. There was a lack of a gripping storyline but this didn’t seem to faze the audience, who were given exactly what they expected – an all-singing, all-dancing holiday show somewhere between pantomime and a musical. Great theatre it is certainly not, however White Christmas is like a mug of mulled wine, giving you an easy fix of that warm feeling inside without too much thought.