Friday, 17 November 2017

“White Christmas” by Present Company
Derby Theatre
The play opens on Christmas Eve 1944 on the Western Front in World War Two. American soldiers from the 151st Division are staging their own Christmas entertainment to keep their spirits up. Captain Bob Wallace and Private Phil Davis perform for their fellow soldiers.
The action moves to 1954, where Bob Wallace and Phil Davis are now stars of stage and screen, performing their songs on the famous Ed Sullivan show. Phil is a ladies man, whereas Bob has more traditional family values.
In a club in another part of town, the Haynes Sisters, Betty and Judy, are preparing for their show. Bob and Phil have agreed to come and see their act.
They all have a drink together. It turns out that Judy has arranged for Wallace and Davis to see their show under false pretences, using their brother’s connection to the 151st Division. Phil and Judy get on well, but it’s not quite the same for Bob and Betty, even though there is clearly a spark between them.
The men follow Betty & Judy to their winter appointment in Vermont, which just happens to be owned by Bob and Phil’s former army commander. People normally go to Vermont for the snow but this year there’s a heatwave so the quartet need to save the show and the day, but will romance blossom for all four of them?
The Eagle Award winning Craig Arme plays Bob Wallace and what a great voice he has doe classic musicals like this.
David Partridge, who was another Eagle Award nominee, plays Phil Davis. He has flying feet in the dance sections of the musical and his duet "The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing" with Judy really shows off both dancers excellent footwork, despite a slight slip.
Laura Orton plays Betty Haynes and Rachel Louisa Bray plays Judy, the other sister. Both have a great chemistry on stage as sisters and with their male counterparts, Their harmonies are faultless and they also get to do some very quick costume changes.
General Henry Waverly, the owner of the inn who doesn't realise just how deep in debt his inn actually is in, is played by David Walters.
The secret of the debt is kept by the woman running the inn, Martha Watson, who used to be a star in her heyday, and also gets to showcase her vocal talents after several attempts at dropping hints to Bob and Phil. Playing this part so well is Judith Hanson.
I must also mention Madison Nayler who played Susan Waverley, the General's Granddaughter. She is one to look out for with her strong and confident vocals and her obvious dance experience.
I was really impressed by the age range in this cast as there were several younger males as well as a fair smattering of elderly cast members, making this a cast of wide experience.
Some local theatre groups have trouble getting young, and older males in their productions. That doesn't seem to be an issue with Present Company.
The whole staging reflects the original 1954 film feel with the wonderful soundtrack which includes classics like “Blue Skies”, “Sisters”, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”, “Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep”, "I Love A Piano" and of course the title track.
Getting the whole feel of the period is also that was done so well by this group. The costumes were classy, and I love the ostrich feathers.
The orchestra, under the musical direction of Morris Fisher, got the sound spot on and this also created that 1940's sound.
The show is entertainment all the way with the wonderful choreography (Jean Gemmell, Rachel-Louis Bray and Rendezvous For Dancing) which included some lovely ballroom and tap sections.
At times I thought the lighting was just a bit darker than was needed, if that makes sense, but I'm being very picky and Lighting Designer, David Marsden, did a great job.
Great sound as well, I heard every word spoken and sung and a nice comfortable mix with the orchestra by Sound Engineer Simon Bitchall.
Oh, and I love the old style programme, and at just £2.00, a worthy addition to seeing the musical.
Some may say that it’s too early to get into the Christmas spirit but on the same night, Nottingham switched on the Christmas lights, so the timing is just right. You can’t help but get that seasonal feeling after seeing this show and it leaves you with that lovely warm feeling, just like a glass of mulled wine. It’s the equivalent of diving under your quilt on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon with a mug of hot chocolate, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and marshmallows with a classic Christmas film on..
“White Christmas” is at Derby theatre until Sunday 19 November 2017.

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