Tuesday, April 23

White Christmas – Sheffield Crucible

‘Alistair David’s choreography is simply the ‘glitter glue’.

Originally a 1954 film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas as become a staple of our festive celebrations. The title song was originally written for the musical Holiday Inn and is a multimillion copy seller with Bing Crosby’s version making up half of the sales. Sheffield Theatres bring this classic to the stage at their Crucible Theatre (in-the-round) and it has a stellar cast who are both in tune with its sentimentality and its splendidly relentless song and dance spectacle.

The story includes a retired General who is now an Innkeeper in Vermont and two of his former platoon members Bob and Phil, who are now successful entertainers. Their paths cross again as the entertainers follow an up and coming young duo of two sisters – Betty and Judy to Vermont for the holiday season – but there’s no snow! Love blossoms, twists and turns and the General now needs the quartet to take control and sort out is failing business… no snow, no visitors and no show until Bob has an idea…. 

Photo: Johan Persson

With the original stage production’s book by David Ives and Paul Blake and Orchestrations by Larry Bank, Sheffield’s production is under the confident Direction of Paul Foster with unique Design by Janet Bird. The limitations of the Crucible Theatre do at times restrict the opulence of the production, with its lack of backdrops and particularly in the finale where the missing elaborate Christmas trees just miss the spot of its the heart-warming effectiveness. However, their use of a double revolve stage allow for swift set changes and some wonderful innovative moments such as the train sequence during the song ‘Snow, snow, snow’. The set is very adaptable and the most is made of the multiple vantage points. The smooth sounding, 10 strong orchestra under the Musical Direction of Alex Parker; with some new musical orchestrations by Jason Carr and Orchestral Management by David Gallagher; are visible to the audience and this is paramount to bringing Berlin’s music fore and central to the show. With Lighting design by Richard Howell and Sound design by Tony Gayle the production team as a whole create a familiar journey into a bygone era of the silver screen movie.

The basic storyline veers slightly from the film in places but the song and dance extravaganza remains intact and Alistair David’s choreography is simply the ‘glitter glue’ that not only holds the tentative storyline together but gives it its glitz and glamour. The choreography is simply stunning from the complex ‘Let Yourself Go’, through the innovative train scene in ‘Snow’ and the new fresh ‘Blue Skies’ into the titillating tap in ‘I Love piano’… All the numbers feel new and include the majority of the 20 plus cast. The ensemble; most of them with individual cameos within the show; fill the stage and were delightful in their dance numbers and the whole cast work at a phenomenal rate to keep this show sparkling. None more so than the principal roles of George Blagden who plays a sophisticated Bob and is well matched to Stuart Neal’s Phil, both are consummate song and dance men and are very likeable. The pair’s vocals blend well, and they own their solo numbers. Natasha Mould as Judy, has a strong vocal and a great chemistry with Neal – their dance duets, particularly ‘The Best Things Happen when you’re Dancing’, are wonderful. However, it was Grace Mouat as Betty who had me riveted with her poise and exemplary delivery of character. Together with Blagden, the pair are both sincere, sophisticated and refined in role.

Ewen Cummings brings a sensitivity to the role of General Waverly and Sandra Marvin as Martha is a real vocal powerhouse! The child role of Susan was played by Ava Rothwell on the night I saw the show and she did so with a confidence and security way beyond her tender years. Watch out for Charlie Brooker’s Mike, I found him very funny as anxious stage manager. The finale rendition of ‘White Christmas’ brought the audience to their feet, and with a sprinkle of seasonal weather inside the auditorium it certainly felt seasonal as the audience were requested to sing the famous song with the cast.

White Christmas runs until January 13th 2024 at the Sheffield Crucible and this production deserves its nightly standing ovations. Don’t miss it! It’s a stylishly, sparkling seasonal show which brings the nostalgia to Noel. https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/crucible

Reviewer: Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 14th December 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.