It may have been the first cold and grey day of December, but when the doors of the Grand Theatre swung open the audience were greeted with a warm welcome with the latest offering from South Staffs Musical Theatre Company.
Based on the much-loved Paramount Pictures film, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is a tale of mischief and misunderstandings, an unlikely romance and the hope of a snow-covered happy ending - all, of course, told through some of the most legendary songs.
The show follows WW2 soldiers Bob Wallace and Phil Davies as they transition from barrack life to the Broadway stage, and “happen” upon two beautiful, undiscovered starlets in the form of sisters Judy and Betty Haynes who are in search of the limelight and on their way to spend Christmas performing in Vermont.
Instantly smitten with Judy, Phil plots a scheme to derail the soldier’s plans to ensure that the festive season is spent as a foursome, but an unseasonable heat wave in Vermont means that the slopes are out of order and the tourists are exiting in droves. In an attempt to rescue the girls’ gig, Wallace, played by Simon McGee, and Luke Renwick as Davies rally their company to pull off a show-stopper and draw in the crowds, but a misunderstanding with headstrong love-interest Betty jeopardises the act.
McGee and Renwick were well matched and had clearly worked hard to create the onstage chemistry needed to fill the giant showbiz shoes of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye from the original motion picture. Equally their relationships with Judy, played by Rebecca Haynes, and Lexie Bennett as Betty respectively had dynamic and heart – with particular highlights being Bob and Betty’s Count Your Blessings and Phil and Judy in I Love A Piano.
Supporting roles were also of a good standard, with Roger Stokes as General Waverly and Maria Shee as Martha Watson, with special mention having to go to Abi Hathaway as Susan Waverly who – despite her young age – gave an engaging and comedic performance beyond her years, and rivalling any adult for centre stage.
The chorus too should be praised, as they entered and exited with purpose and flew into numerous dance numbers with unbridled enthusiasm. Throughout the singing was good if somewhat inconsistent in these bigger dance numbers, but moved at pace through the many lovable numbers.
South Staffs Musical Theatre Company pitched this brilliantly, offering an alternative to the traditional panto family outing. Despite a few opening night technical set-backs it certainly delivered a festive treat – get yourself a ticket if you still can!
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