Confession time. I’d never seen White Christmas before. Not just the stage musical - the actual film.
I wondered why when I’m a bit of a Christmas film lover. The musical, on at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal this week. would reveal all.
Based on the 1954 film of the same name, the story is set on Christmas Eve in Europe in 1944, at the height of World War II. Captain Bob Wallace and Private Phil Davis entertain the 151st division with a soldier's show. General Henry Waverley wonders where they will be in 10 years' time
Cue fast-forwarding 10 years and the pair have made it big as performers while General Waverley owns a hotel. Bob and Phil go to see sisters Betty and Judy Haynes sing. Phil falls for Judy and Bob for Betty. The plot differs slightly from the film (this I know from good old Wiki) but what strikes me is that despite the name, the story has very little to do with Christmas. It’s a story set at Christmas time rather than a story about Christmas (an argument I would use to confirm that Die Hard is not, I repeat NOT a Christmas film - but don’t get me started on that)
Other than the title song, there’s one other, Happy Holiday, that I’d count as a Christmas number. Am I banging on about this a bit too much? Probably. The lack of festivities is made up for right at the end when the cast again sings White Christmas as part of a performance the characters have put on to pay the debts at General Waverly's hotel and save him from bankruptcy. There are bright lights, a large Christmas tree and snow. It even snows on the audience a little.
You’d be forgiven for thinking I was disappointed. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth, because despite the lack of Christmassy content, I actually loved it. It was a big production with a cast of 26, big show-stopping musical numbers by Irving Berlin, a fantastic set and superb choreography.
Heading up the cast is local Notts lad Jay McGuiness of The Wanted, who has more recently carved a name for himself on stage. He delivers a charismatic performance as Captain Bob Wallace, singing and dancing his way through the performance. Although known for his pop background, Jay actually trained at the Midland Academy of Dance and Drama in Nottingham. This role gives him the opportunity to showcase his talents.
Playing opposite him is Olivier Award nominee Dan Burton as Phil, who also puts in a fantastic performance.
There were two surprises of the night for me. One is that the show starred Lorna Luft, daughter of Judy Garland. Lorna plays the role of housekeeper Martha, one which she has played in previous regional tours. A brilliant seasoned performer you can definitely hear that Garland tone to her voice.
The second surprise was the fact you’d have no idea that it was former Brookside actor Michael Starke a.k.a Sinbad playing General Waverley had you not known. He puts in a great performance (and not a hint of a scouse accent)
Like all Christmas movie plots, the ending is predictable, but you’ll love the almost two-and-a-half-hour journey to get there. I can not recommend the production highly enough. The perfect antidote to the current gloomy climate. Absolutely perfect escapism in every way.
Theatre Royal Nottingham
Tuesday 22 – Saturday 26 November 2022
Tue-Sat 7.30pm, Wed & Thu matinee 2pm, Sat matinee 2.30pm
£22.50 - £65 plus discounts for Royal Members*, Under 26s, and Groups
www.trch.co.uk Box Office 0115 989 5555
Age Guidance 8+
*Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Nottingham Royal Membership scheme offers benefits including ticket discounts and exclusive pre-sales. For more information please visit www.trch.co.uk/membership