Review: White Christmas at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

By December 19, 2014

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

[Image: (c) West Yorkshire Playhouse]

As the weather finally begins to turn frosty and the festive whiff of Christmas starts to fill the air, a trip to the Quarry Theatre at West Yorkshire Playhouse to see a brand new production of ‘White Christmas’ seemed like a perfect way to fill a Tuesday evening, and we were not disappointed.

Having been granted the rights to develop the first new UK production of the show, director Nikolai Foster, (who has previously brought excellent adaptions of both ‘Annie’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’) refreshes ‘White Christmas’ with both wit and warmth.

Leading the cast are Darren Day and Oliver Tompsett as Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, in roles made famous through the 1954 movie adaption featuring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. But both Day and Tompsett make the roles their own.
However, it may be fair to say Day disappears slightly in the dance numbers while the charisma laden Tompsett jives with abundance; but what Day lacks in dance moves, his crooning, vibrato-rich vocals make up for, and he certainly gets all the best songs. From the oozingly festive title track, ‘White Christmas’ to the glitzy and glamorous ‘Blue Skies’, Day shows a great deal of respect for these Irving Berlin classics.


Emma Williams and Holly Dale Spencer bring excellent chemistry to the stage playing the roles of Betty and Judy Haynes (Day and Tompsett’s love interests) and special mention must also go to a number of the supporting cast.
Melanie La Barrie is excellent as Martha Watson and brings the house down with ‘Let me Sing and I’m Happy’. But, it is by far the company’s youngest member, Gaia Ottman, who steals the show in the role of Susan, General Waverly’s granddaughter. It is fantastic to see such a young actress already harnessing the power of comic timing down to a tee.

Nick Winston brings the show alive with vibrant choreography and Jason Carr’s newly orchestrated score for an on-stage seven-piece band is inspired. It is a fantastic and rare opportunity to see a show band incorporated into the staging, rather than hidden away under the stage.

Indeed, it is the staging that really takes this production to the next level. For this, Matthew Wright has done a marvellous job. From the bleakness of the Western Front to glitzy glamour of the Ed Sullivan show, Wright uses a limited amount of strategically placed staging to set each scene perfectly. Add to that a revolving circular stage, a piano staircase, costumes festooned with sparkles, enough glitter to satisfy a Dolly Parton drag act at a Strictly Come Dancing after party, and it feels like some of the magic of a classic MGM picture has been brought to Yorkshire.

The show ends with a flurry of fake snow and a heart-warming sing along and I dare you not to feel festive.
Overall, a family fun packed show; sure to sprinkle even the grumpiest of Grinch’s with a touch of Christmas spirit.


Sophie Wright


The show runs until January 17th 2015 and tickets are still available from the West Yorkshire Playhouse website.

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