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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Dominion


After three seasonal tours across the country, the full-scale stage adaptation of Irving Berlin’s 1954 screen musical White Christmas has finally taken up residence at the Dominion Theatre and ticks most of the boxes where wholesome family entertainment is concerned. I’m not quite sure what the kids will make of it, as it’s aimed more at their grandparents, but it’s harmless enough in an anodyne kind of way. And if it is evergreen tunes you’re after, you’ll probably enjoy a good old wallow. Like a favourite box of chocolates with familiar centres, its 17 songs offer bite-size dollops of nostalgia.

If you’re at all familiar with the film, you’ll recall it’s plot is a barely serviceable contrivance in which a pair of army buddies turned song-and-dance duo (Alled Jones and Tom Chambers) decide to give the Vermont holiday resort owned by their beloved ex-commanding officer a much-needed boost by staging a musical extravaganza in a barn. (Hey everybody, let’s put on a show!) After some plot-swelling misunderstandings, and with the help of a sister act (Rachel Stanley and Louise Bowden) that doubles as the romantic interest, the resort is saved and a happy ending vouchsafed.

Given the narrowness of its scope and the minefield of clichés with which its path is strewn, director Morgan Young, working from a template by the show’s American director Walter Bobbie, delivers exactly what it says on the label: a lively, feel-good romp with no trace of originality that makes absolutely no demands on the intellect and always aims to please.

It’s a case of familiarity breeding content as one great Berlin standard follows another. And if, in the end, the vocalising never begins to come anywhere close to that of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney – who appeared in the 1954 film – the dancing provided by choreographer Randy Skinner keeps the show on its toes. Though the routines are derivative – especially the big "Blue Skies" number, which borrows liberally from "Get Happy," Judy Garland’s standout finale from Summer Stock – it’s certainly infectiously toe-tapping. The evening’s high spot, which deservedly received the biggest round of applause, was "I Love a Piano," the energetic opener to act two.

In other roles, Wendi Peters tends to confuse stridency with energy as the lodge’s all-purpose Ethel Merman-type receptionist. As the ex-commanding officer, Graham Cole, restricted by the two dimensionality of David Ives and Paul Blake’s book, doesn’t do much more than go through the motions.

Leading men Jones and Chambers could do with a touch more charm, and as their love interest, Stanley and Bowden don’t have the benefit of movie close-ups to help them project more personality than what’s presently on offer.

Fortunately, Anna Louizos’ sets and Carrie Robbins’ costume are more than serviceable, and despite the frequent and tempo-reducing reliance on front tabs and backdrops to allow for the set-changes, the show avoids looking like the touring production it is. It also boasts the best orchestra in town, which, with a great Berlin score at its disposal, is a real bonus.


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