Celebrate the magic of Christmas with the perfect family musical” runs the poster-ad slogan for this big, glossy production of White Christmas – the stage spin-off to the much-loved 1954 film starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.
“Perfect family musical” is pushing it. It’s so anodyne, and markedly adult (in a Fifties way), that I suspect few kids will leave with a spring in their step. And the budget-busting ticket prices (rising to £250) could make the wallets of grown-ups weep.
In Leicester last year – where I warmly saluted Nikolai Foster’s staging – you could get the best seats in the house for £45. At the Dominion, of course, you’re getting a substantial helping of West End glitz but, with double the auditorium to captivate, the relatively slight nature of the rom-com spectacle becomes more apparent. This production is stronger than the one – with Aled Jones – that was here five years ago, but you can see why critics were cool about the show when it premiered on Broadway in 2009.
This isn’t to say that the evening lacks charm, style or hoofing delight – and in its male leads, Danny Mac and Dan Burton, it offers the nostalgic pleasure of square-jawed decency – a welcome holiday from our tantrumy Trump age.
As in the film, when we first meet Mac’s chiselled Bob (the Crosby role) and Burton’s puppyish Phil (Kaye’s), and hear the sentimental title number (one of about 20 from Irving Berlin’s back-catalogue), it is Christmas Eve 1944 and the men are at war, entertaining their fellow soldiers with a morale-boosting show.
The double-act pals fight the good fight 10 years on, recruiting a troupe to mount a special revue aimed – oh so loyally – at saving the ailing Vermont hotel run by their former general; the area is afflicted by an unseasonal, skier-enraging lack of Yuletide snow. Quick, someone call Greta!
The storyline is mainly set at untroubling room temperature – with droll touches of frost between the cynical Bob and Danielle Hope’s equally retiring Betty, one half of a sweetly coquettish sister act (Clare Halse as her sibling, Judy, is a gregarious instant match for the laid-back, Lothario-like Phil).
With ravishing costumes, svelte choreography by Stephen Mear, and enjoyable supporting turns (watch out for Brenda Edwards as the brassy hotel concierge), it’s all as shiny as a newly unwrapped Christmas tree bauble. But the memory of it will swiftly be boxed away and left alone, too. A treat with a lower-case t.