WHITE CHRISTMAS - NOVEMBER 2017
DIRECTOR - Max Bullough
MUSICAL DIRECTOR - Katie Hickson
CHOREOGRAPHER - Elle Watson
By Irving Berlin
Bob Wallace - Dan Hickson
Phil Davis - Adrian Hickford
Betty Haynes - Lyndsay Smith
Judy Haynes - Christina Finn
General Henry Waverly - Kevin Denson
Martha Watson - Penny Bullough
Susan Waverly - Ruby Hall
Ralph Sheldrake - Andy Morgan
Rita - Johanne Eveleigh
Rhoda - Lucy Hutchings
Snoring man - Simon Meanwell-Ralph
Snoring woman - Suzanne Hall
Ezekiel Foster - Alan Morgan
Mike - Wesley Buckeridge
Peter Barber, Cressida Bullough, Anne Croudass, Stephen Gleed, Suzanne Hall, Marina Humphrey, Kimberly James, Sally Male, Anne McDonald, Hamish McDonald, Lorraine Morgan, Charles Quinn, Emma Smith, Juliet Surridge, Gina Thorley, Denise Truscott, Isabel Wylde
Day Break - Winchester
Curtain Up South
Irving Berlin's White Christmas musical premiered some 46 years after the film on which it was based. It wasn't much of a hit with the critics but it's enjoyed numerous tours, revivals and of course amateur productions. The heart-warming, if somewhat twee, story centres around two song and dance men who form a partnership after serving in the second World War and go on to meet a sisters double act who catch their eye. Soon they cross paths with their old General, who's fallen on hard times, and they come up with a plan to help him out. There's not a great deal of drama, but it moves with more pace than you might expect and there are plenty of interesting characters along the way.
WMOS brought just the right levels of warmth and sweetness to a show of this style, and it really felt like they were bringing the audience along with them. Dan Hickson was endlessly charming as Bob Wallace, and even if his voice could have used a little more power here and there, his natural charisma meant it didn't really matter. Adrian Hickford threw bags of effort into Wallace's partner, Phil Davis, although it didn't always feel like he was fully comfortable in the role. Lyndsay Smith was a sweet Betty Haynes, with a lovely tone to her voice, although I would have liked to have seen a little more personality injected into the role at times. Christina Finn shone out as a vibrant Judy Haynes, with opportunities to show off her vocals, her strength in movement, and even some tap, alongside her confident and engaging character.
The comedy came mostly from the smaller roles, with excellent character parts portrayed by Alan Morgan, Johanne Eveleigh, Lucy Hutchings and others. But special mention must go to Wesley Buckeridge, whose camp stage manager never failed to get a laugh. Penny Bullough also gave a strong performance as Martha, opposite Kevin Denson as the General, and 12 year old Ruby Hall impressed as the young Susan. The smiley ensemble sang well and brought to life the excellent choreography by Elle Wolf.
There were a few sound issues – particularly early on – and it was often difficult to hear the performers over the band, but hopefully this will improve as the run goes on. The staging and lighting were relatively simple but it all mostly worked.
Ultimately, this is a show without many 'wow' moments, and you're unlikely to end up on the edge of your seat. But in fairness, this musical was never designed to deliver those things. And if you want to get yourself in the mood for Christmas, then here's your chance!
Christmas came early to the Theatre Royal this year with Winchester Musicals and Opera Society’s performance of White Christmas. As ubiquitous and joyful as a Christmas jumper, what better way to kick off the festive season? With the book by David Ives and Paul Blake, the stage version premiered in 2000. Irving Berlin’s familiar and well-loved melodies, in particular the title song, take us back to a bygone era. ‘White Christmas’ was first aired on American radio on Christmas Day, 1941. But the wistfulness of the song had a deeper poignancy at the time; it was eighteen days after the Pearl Harbor attack.
Despite (mostly) convincing American accents, the entertaining opening scene had a feel of Dad’s Army and drew many laughs from the audience who were disposed to enjoy themselves, if their hearty applause for the Overture was anything to go by. Katie Hickson, in her first outing as Musical Director, proved herself worthy of the baton and the accompaniment never wavered.
All four of the principals, Dan Hickson as Bob, Adrian Hickford as Phil, Lyndsay Smith as Betty and Christina Finn as Judy delivered secure vocal performances and the contrasting relationships of the two pairs were well drawn.
Lyndsay perfectly captured Betty’s changing emotions, particularly in the beautifully controlled ‘Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me’ complemented by Dan’s ‘How Deep is the Ocean?’ both of which were a moving contrast to the more upbeat numbers. Highlights for me included Dan and Adrian’s reprise of ‘Sisters’, complete with hips that would put Strictly to shame, and the Andrews Sisters style ‘Falling Out Of Love Can Be Fun’ trio sung by Penny Bullough, Christina and Lyndsay.
Penny gave an outstanding performance as Martha along with Ruby Hall as Susan, whose stage presence and confidence belied her years.
The principals were well supported by an energetic and beautifully choreographed chorus and a plethora of entertaining cameo roles notably Johanne Eveleigh and Lucy Hutchings as Rita and Rhoda, Wesley Buckeridge as Mike and Alan Morgan as Ezekiel.
It was appropriately chilly as we left the theatre, but sadly no snow…
Anyone attending this sparkling, production of White Christmas was guaranteed a magical start to the festive season. Irving Berlin’s show is all about big song and dance sequences with the feel of what could almost be considered a consequential story line. Based on the popular film starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, it takes brave societies to try and recreate a musical lovingly remembered, starring such icons of the film world! The well-known story tells of two ex-army friends who team up with two sisters to put on a show to save their former general’s remote Vermont ski lodge when it falls on hard times. The music score abounds with tuneful Irving Berlin melodies, among them ‘Sisters’, ‘Snow’, ‘Count Your Blessings’, ‘I Love A Piano’ and, the most iconic of all Christmas songs – ‘I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas’.
The stage crew worked extremely hard throughout this show to create all the various scenes. The complex and busy scenery created the right atmosphere at every turn and twist of the story. The design was innovative as one has come to expect with this society. Throughout the show the cast were very well-dressed together with appropriate accessories.
The eight-piece orchestra were most ably led by the MD. The combination using keyboard alongside brass, woodwind and percussion was most effective. The musical directors and choreographer are to be congratulated on the standard of the musical ensemble numbers which together with the well-executed, superb choreography made the overall effect inspiring.
A talented quartet of strong players is required to play the four main leads and, fitting the roles perfectly, were Dan Hickson (Bob Wallace) and Adrian Hickford (Phil Davis), playing the two ex-army buddies. Ideally suited for their parts, both men were extremely at ease in their tap dancing routines and showed their talent brilliantly in their respective ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘I Love A Piano’ number. Christina Finn and Lyndsay Smith - both ladies were outstanding in their acting, dancing, and singing solos with both putting over their ‘Sisters’ number to great effect. Comedy is spread throughout the show and Penny Bullough impressed with her performance as the General’s nosey, sarcastic housekeeper, Martha Watson. Her wry, cynical, dialogue was delivered in quick fire delivery creating many laughs throughout her performance. On his every entrance, Kevin Denson made an imposing and respected General Waverly. A Christmas “star” shone brightly throughout the performance of Susan, the general’s granddaughter, played with absolute charm by Ruby Hall,
who received a great ovation for her parodied ‘Let Me Sing and I’m Happy’ song. It all went wonderfully well with tremendous choral ensemble work – all leading to the “magic” Christmas moment the magnificent Christmas finale set piece is brought into play at the show’s conclusion.
The whole production was of a very high standard and the performance was a delight to watch. The audience were certainly most appreciative and many left humming those very memorable tunes. With Christmas just weeks away, it left us all with a happy festive feeling. It was a real Christmas cracker!
NODA South-East Councillor