It seemed kind of written in the stars that this morning I was scraping ice off my car and the forecasters are predicting snow overnight, that I saw White Christmas at Wilmslow Leisure Centre tonight performed by Alderley & Wilmslow Musical Theatre Company. With just 47 days left until excited children across the world open up their presents, and end up playing with the boxes in most cases, we certainly got our first taste of the festive season tonight.
White Christmas is a musical based on the Paramount Pictures 1954 film of the same name. The libretto is by David Ives and Paul Blake, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. The story opens with Bob Wallace and Phil Davis performing a Christmas Eve show for their fellow troops in 1944. Fast forward to 1954 with Bob and Phil now appearing on the Ed Sullivan show having become radio and TV stars since the end of the war.
Despite their fame there is one thing missing from their lives, the love of a good woman. After hearing girl duo Betty and Judy Haynes sing the boys want to put them into their show, but the girls are booked to perform a winter season at a hotel in Vermont. Not put off by this, all 4 end up on a train to Vermont and arrive at a failing hotel which turns out to be run by the boys ex-Army General. A plan is hatched for the 4 singers to perform at the hotel to raise funds to help save the business. This is a musical, so things don’t always go exactly to plan.
Matt Darsley and Richard Ross as Wallace and Davis respectively are extremely well cast and bounce off each other throughout the show and their friendship was entirely believable. Both have great voices as well and sing effortlessly. Our leading ladies Ruth Moore (Betty) and Eileen Rawlinson (Judy) are equal to the boys in every aspect of their performance. I particularly enjoyed Rawlinson’s portrayal of Judy. What a voice this lady has!
Bob Chaloner as General Henry Waverly was dominant in his performance displaying all the grandeur you’d expect from an army general. Alison Brander as hotel concierge Martha threatens to steal the show at times however, for me the shining star of this production has to be Milli Patel as young Susan Waverly. Patel was faultless from start to finish and performed her solo number in act 2 “Let Me Sing When I’m Happy” with control and stage presence way beyond her years, which total just 11.
The direction from Val Watkinson was good throughout although the pace of the show for me could have been a little faster. Musical Director Giles Deacon oversaw a superb band hidden away in the upper level of the centre, and Christine Meadows injected some fantastic choreography including a wonderful tap routine at the start of act 2.
The set for this production was basic, a projected background supplemented by tables, chairs and other furniture where required and on the whole worked well. Sadly the first night gremlins appeared in act 2 when the projections seemed to stop working. A real shame as they were visually superb in the first half.
The finale of the show features, of course, the classic “White Christmas” which the entire audience were invited to join along with. And to get us in the Christmas spirit snow fell on the audience in what was a stunning finale.
White Christmas continues at Wilmslow Leisure Centre until Saturday and is well worth a visit to get you into the festive mood. To see the finale alone it is worth the ticket money. I am already looking forward to the next production from this very talented company, 9 to 5 which plays at the same venue in 12 months time.
Reviewer: Paul Downham
Reviewed: 8th November 2016