"...an excellent principal line-up, timeless songs and a first rate orchestra..."
This week, the beautiful Palace Theatre in Redditch is host to Redditch Operatic Society’s production of White Christmas, the musical based on the 1954 movie made famous by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, featuring those well-loved songs by Irving Berlin, the song “White Christmas” being a blockbuster hit that we still sing today when the baubles and mistletoe have their yearly airing. And ROS have really gone to town to deliver a fun and sparkling show.
Ok, so its not the most dynamic of story-lines but when you have strong stage direction by Tony Jay, an excellent principal line-up, timeless songs and a first rate orchestra lead by Joe George, you really are onto a winner.
Ryan Allen-Rose, playing Phil Davis and Paul Mitchell playing Bob Wallace, bring lots of all-singing-all-dancing energy to the stage - vibrant Phil, the ladies’ man, with his wit and boyish charisma, and sensible Bob, a rather more principled character who is searching for true love, both deliver the songs with excellent voices and have a very appealing onstage chemistry.
Emma Sansom as the responsible Betty and Laura Woodall as the more starstruck Judy are the beautiful Haynes sisters, both well cast with, again, excellent singing voices and character. I really enjoyed their ‘Sisters’ number, which was later hilariously recreated by the boys with rolled up trews and the iconic blue feathered fans.
Ann Mayor as Martha Watson, the former Broadway star and now housekeeper, brings the best of the humour to the stage with her dry, one-liners, persistent meddling and witty retorts and entertains us with her belting top hat routine Let me sing and I’m happy (and she certainly was) and Tim Eagleton as US Army General Henry Waverly is a fine actor, portraying the stern and sensible General with strong principles and a warm heart.
Ralph Sheldrake, the Ed Sullivan TV show producer and former army buddy of Bob and Phil, is played by John Reeves, and John really gets that swanky New York professional personality across perfectly, as do the dim-witted, giggly chorus girls, Rita (Roz Chalk) and Rhoda (Kelly Mitchell), who are perfectly pretty and very silly. Jessica Taylor is delightful as the General’s granddaughter, Susan, and she performed a confident reprise of Let me sing and I'm happy. Samuel Smith plays the energetic stage manager, Mike Nulty and Tessa Lodge as Tessie and Matt Bridgewater as Ezekiel Foster both give self-assured performances and complete the lead line-up, with Matt receiving many giggles from the enthusiastic audience.
The principals are supported by a very large cast (at one point I thought they were attempting the Guinness book of records entry for the most dancers on one stage at any one time), but the fun and happiness was apparent and everyone performed well with some really nice standard routines from the tappers and some well choreographed formations, all under the choreographic direction of Paula Lacey, whom I applaud for such a large undertaking. A shimmering set with twinkling Christmas tree and ‘real’ snow was a treat and show highlights included Betty and Bob’s How deep is the ocean, Bob and Company’s Blue Skies and an audience participated rendition of White Christmas’
There were a few first-night hiccups, which I am sure will be ironed out quickly and American accents came and went a couple of times but, in all, ROS have delivered a sparkling, festive, family show with a lovely light design and great sound quality.
So, if you enjoy the very beautiful surroundings of traditional theatre, are a fan of superbly orchestrated music and fancy an alternative to panto, then this is for you.
Runs to 24 Nov
Suitable for everyone
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.