Reviewed by David Smith
Director Sue Pole and Musical Director Gordon Combes have come up with a lively and pleasing production of this much-admired movie musical. They achieved that with a good cast, orchestra and crew, but the stage adaptation didn’t assist them much. It is decidedly episodic and although most of the set changes were handled adroitly, the play itself lacks overall fluency.
The three main couples were well matched. Michael Coumi as Bob and Sophie Hamilton as Betty handled the awkwardness of their characters’ initial hesitation convincingly, along with the subsequent transition to true love. They were at their emotional best when they were singing, and used their well-modulated voices to develop the mood. Count Your Blessings was a highlight. Angus Smith and Rebecca Mason were lively and credible in working through Phil and Judy’s bumpy relationship, while Russell Ford and Chris Bussey brought engaging maturity, warmth and humour to their inevitably linked characters, Henry and Martha. Tammy Pedler and Amanda Sharp played the irritatingly shallow showgirls, Rhoda and Rita, with great energy.
The chorus work was strong and the dancing, especially in the tap routines, really captured the mood. Act Two’s opener, I Love a Piano, led by Phil and Judy, worked especially well. Generally the costumes reflected the era, and looked appropriate. Some of the men’s outfits, however, could have done with another fitting session. The sets were simple and symbolic and most served the purpose well.
The company succeeded in evoking the story and times of White Christmas and the audience thoroughly appreciated it.