What’s better than cozying up to watch a classic Christmas movie? How about watching it transformed onto a stage with big dance numbers and dazzling costumes! Based on the classic Bing Crosby movie of the same title, White Christmas transports you to 1954 where Broadway stars and ex-soldiers Bob Wallace and Phil Davis meet with sister act Judy and Betty Haynes. They all find themselves off to Vermont, to their old General’s inn where they decide to put on a grand performance for their beloved General. However, after a misunderstanding, Judy leaves for New York, leaving Bob heartbroken before the big show. But of course, it wouldn’t be a classic Christmas musical without a big, happy ending sing-a-long in the snow.
Matthew Jeans (Bob Wallace) and Dan Burton (Phil Davis), were fantastic! They captured that chemistry and banter we see between Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in the original movie. They exuded classic Broadway, from their costumes, to their dancing, to even their accent. Dan Burton’s comedic timing is perfect and the difference in personality between him and Matthew Jeans is a fun dynamic (ladykiller and hopeless romantic). The pair had that 1950s charm, particularly Matthew Jeans as he sings “Count your Blessings Instead of Sheep”, showing off the character’s sensitive side.
The boys’ counterparts, Jessica Daley (Betty Haynes) and Emily Langham (Judy Haynes) were also fabulous. “Sisters” is such an iconic song and scene with big blue feather fans and a lot of pressure; they smashed it! Jessica Daley has such an incredible voice. After Betty leaves for New York, she sings “Love, You Didn’t do Right by Me”. Daley’s voice is captivating and had the attention of the whole room, without any big dance numbers, just her voice. One of my favourite dances was Emily Langham’s tap dance number. She was so fun and added excitement to the sister duo. Just like the boys, I loved the differences between the two sisters.
Sally Ann Triplett’s (Martha Watson) number “Let me Sing and I’m Happy” was amazing and one of the best in the show. Her voice carries so well and she captures that old Broadway/ Hollywood atmosphere. Of course she was also hilarious beside Duncan Smith as General Henry Waverly. Special shout-out to Kraig Thornber for his small but side-splitting role as Ezekiel, which had the audience giggling throughout.
Irving Berlin’s music and lyrics are still as wonderful today as they were in the 50s. I am glad they’ve kept original songs we love, such as “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing”, instead of adapting to the musical theatre we know today. By sticking that 1950’s sound, the audience feels truly transported. And of course the song “White Christmas” is so beautiful, everyone was singing along.
Paul Blake and David Ives stay close to the original story, which is wonderful and magical, if not a bit unrealistic. It baffles me how Betty falls for Bob so quickly after hating each other for most of the performance, however I suppose that’s old Hollywood movie magic. One thing I noticed was the lack of people of colour in this performance. Of course the performance can stay true to the 1950s storyline, but more diversity and inclusivity would bring this story into the modern-day.
Stephen Mear’s choreography is spectacular! I was absolutely blown away with the dance numbers which felt like proper old-school Hollywood. To reiterate, the tap dance number with Judy and Phil was absolutely incredible and so joyful! Ian Talbot’s directing brings the story to life. The work he must have done with the actors to create that fun chemistry mentioned earlier definitely paid off. In addition, the ensemble were great at background acting. Talbot must have worked extensively on this as it was flawless; a few times I found myself wondering what the other characters stories were as they were so convincing.
Set designer Michael Taylor and costume designer Diego Pitarch did an incredible job of transforming screen to stage. One scene that sticks out is the opening of the musical, where the soldiers are sitting around their camp with a raggedy Christmas tree and Santa hats. And as Matthew Jeans begins to sing the iconic song White Christmas, it felt as though you were peeping in to reality, like you were there with them. Personally, I love a moving set so the train scene was an absolute hoot! Of course we all know that the costumes are amazing for a showstopper like this, but the finale costumes are gorgeous and dazzling. They definitely get you in the Christmas mood.
White Christmas is a show-stopping performance, that will have you singing along and leave you in awe at the Christmas magic. The cast are fabulous and capture that old Hollywood glamour. The choreography, set and costume are just as spectacular as you would imagine! It’s definitely a must-see to get ready for the holiday period.
Get your tickets for ‘White Christmas’ at the Edinburgh Playhouse here: