AdaptationDramaFamilyFestive 21/22MusicalSouth West

White Christmas the Musical – Bristol Hippodrome

Reviewer: Francesca Parker

Director: Ian Talbot OBE

Music and Lyrics: Irving Berlin

Choreographer: Stephen Mear CBE

It might only be the beginning of November, the leaves may only just have started falling, and with bonfire night looming, a Christmas musical may seem somewhat arbitrary for the majority of theatregoers in Bristol. However, those in the audience at the Bristol Hippodrome couldn’t help but feel the magic of musical theatre in this wonderland of a production. Aside from two tracks (‘Snow’ and ‘White Christmas’), you’d be forgiven for not knowing in what season the majority of the production is set. So, for the Scrooge’s amongst you, or those hesitant to attend because they worry that it will be too ‘Christmassy’, go and get your tickets while it’s in town!

Originally having been based on the much-loved 1954 musical film, White Christmas feels like a classic when it comes to treading the boards; but rather surprisingly, particularly given its depth and character, the production only first debuted on stage in the year 2000 in St Louis, USA. Receiving critical acclaim, the production then moved to Broadway in 2008 where no other than Walter Bobbie produced the show. Direct from the Dominion Theatre in the West End, armed with an incredible score of music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, the show transitions from one musical treat to another.

Having narrowly escaped with their lives from somewhere in Europe 1944, Phil Davis (Dan Burton) and Bob Wallace (Matthew Jeans) team up to become an entertainment double-act. Serendipitously, they meet the sister-act of Betty (Jessica Daley) and Judy Haynes (Emily Langham) and collectively travel to help a friend in need whose country retreat is struggling to stay afloat. It’s in music, friendship and romance where true Christmas miracles are made.

This musical wholeheartedly lives up to expectation. It is absolutely impossible not to fall in love with the music, even more specifically the way in which it is delivered. A stellar cast and ensemble, led by Olivier Award nominee Dan Burton, ensured that there was real precision and slickness to each routine. Songs like ‘Blue Skies’ really highlight the quality and breadth of Jean’s vocal range. The two male leads were simply sublime and amongst the most memorable of their songs was their imitative rendition of ‘Sisters’. Similarly, Daley’s tones were gorgeous and smooth in equal measure.

As impressive were the dance numbers. The chorus did not miss a beat, every move was synchronised, harmonious and controlled. Without a doubt, it is the most impressive dance choreography and coordinated movements I have seen in any musical currently on the UK touring circuit – the male dances were particularly impressive.

The set and lighting facilitated everything it needed to, with the cast seamlessly doubling up as stagehands to ensure the scenes transitioned with ease. However, there were a few technical errors throughout the show – teething problems perhaps in a new theatre. The first major number was interrupted and the show was put on pause to rectify the trouble. Despite this slight setback, the cast was stoic, they came back out and were incredibly professional when doing so – they were barely phased and received rapturous applause from the audience as a result.

So, even if you’re not yet dreaming of a ‘White Christmas’ but love a feel-good, top-drawer sing-along, you need to get to the Bristol Hippodrome this week!

Runs until 6th November 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

A feel-good classic

The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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