Tuesday, 23 December 2014

'Irving Berlin's White Christmas' at The Dominion Theatre

Last week we went to see 'Irving Berlin's White Christmas', a production I've been looking forward to since it was first announced in the summer. The Dominion Theatre is an odd venue for it - the former home of Queen's 'We Will Rock You' for so many years. The audience was definitely of 'a certain age' (i.e. older than me) and there were lots of walking sticks and people needing a bit of help up the stairs. Part of me likes being in the youngest portion of the audience and likes it that old folks want to go to the theatre.

Sadly, I didn't like this show and was deeply disappointed by it. Perhaps my expectations were too high but, if you're going to see 'White Christmas' then it's reasonable to expect to see 'White Christmas'. And that's not what we were given.

The play started off in the second world war as it should, but rather than give us the touching scene from the film we have a so-called comedy moment with Bob on stage in uniform with Phil standing close behind him and Phil asks, 'do you know how long it's been since I've seen a girl?' at which Bob pulls an OMG face and hops forward to move his backside further from Phil's crotch. It's 2014 and we get a 'backs to the wall lads' joke? Really? This is the tone of the thing we're going to watch? And this is within a couple of minutes of the thing starting. It seems to go downhill from there.

Now, I realise that some things might be covered by copyright so can't be reproduced but why play around with the basics of a great story? Why change 'Snow' from a  song of optimism, joy and hope into a comedy song? What's that about? Why have a housekeeper that just happens to be an old Broadway pro who thinks she's Ethel Merman? Why introduce a little girl as the grand-daughter to do a cutesy song and dance? Why turn 'Count Your Blessings' into the central theme of the show to the extent that the General gives a speech that could've come out of 'The Wizard of Oz' about no place like home at the end? Why give the song 'White Christmas' to the General to sing and then turn it into a sing-a-long?

So many things done wrong. Why not just take the easy route and follow the film?

So yes, I was disappointed. Aled Jones was the only name I recognised on the bill but even he seems to be trying to develop a 'stage voice'. Tom Chambers is a non-entity to me but, apparently, he did tap dancing on 'Strictly Come Dancing' so he gets an extended scene doing an endless tap-dance that isn't n the film. Just as Aled gets an extended remix version of 'Blue Skies' with a full tap chorus. Um? More songs from the Irving Berlin canon than you could shake a stick at but what's wrong with the songs from the film?

Betty and Judy were played by Rachel Stanley and Louise Bowden and both were ok at following direction but were awful singers, unnecessarily strident throughout, lacking any kind of subtlety. Rachel played it far too cynical and I couldn't believe the sub-plot of love for Bob at all.  There was no emotional connectional all because they'd changed the connections of 'Count Your Blessings'. The really cold version of 'Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me' was astonishing in its total absence of feeling. Disaster-level casting and story-telling.

And don't get me started on Wendi Peters as the housekeeper-cum-Broadway-star. No. Just no.

Yes, you've guessed. I really didn't like this show at all and feel really let down by everyone involved. I think it's virtually sold out for it's whole run so good on it, but I won't be returning.

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