Theatre review - White Christmas, Burnley Light Opera Society, Burnley Mechanics
PUBLISHED: 14:51 13 November 2016 | UPDATED: 16:30 07 December 2016
Christmas came early to Burnley as the Burnley Light Opera Society performed the Irving Berlin classic, "White Christmas".
It is that time of year again. A time that seems to come around quicker every single year, but the full house at the Burnley Mechanics theatre were ready and in festive spirits. The musical is based on the 1954 motion picture starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, so no pressure.
The story follows two soldiers in the American army, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, who, one Christmas Eve, entertain the other troops with their song and dance rendition. They eventually leave the army and make it big in the world of showbusiness regularly appearing on the Ed Sullivan show. Phil introduces Bob to the Haynes sisters, Betty and Judy who have their own song and dance act and one that Phil believes would fit in with their own show. The pair soon find themselves on a train to Vermont where the Haynes sisters are set to perform, but Bob believes they are heading to Miami. On arriving at the lodge they meet their old Commander, General Waverly, who owns the establishment. They discover that the General is keen to get himself back into the Army and, unbeknown to him, the lodge is rife with debt and the pair realise they may be able to help.
I confess that this musical is one I am not familiar with. Although the title suggests otherwise, the theme of the show is not heavily referenced on Christmas. Instead, it a vibrant, bright, energetic and entertaining story full of fabulous numbers and dance routines. What I really find hard to believe is that this is an amateur production, because, based on this performance, it is anything but.
Director and Choreographer Anthony Williams has worked absolute wonders in bringing this story to life. A story that is funny as well as entertaining and one that is packed with high energy performances from the whole cast. The use of a giant video screen at the back of the stage added another level onto the musical, giving us an additional dimension to the production and a realistic edge. For two and a quarter hours you will completely absorbed and forget that the characters are actors.
Simon Murray returned to the group as Musical Director along with his wonderful team of talented musicians who worked tirelessly throughout the whole performance and even, at times, became a part of the show. Simon himself was equally as impressive with his ability to simultaneously compose and play the keyboard at the same time.
Every member of the group from the lead performers to the ensemble put their hearts and souls into this performance. Becky White and Laura Chadwick were ever present on stage with their sassy performances of Rita and Rhoda. Tony Lewis, Greg Wharf and Alan Whittaker played the roles of Mike, Ralph Sheldrake and Ezekiel Foster adding some of the shows more humorous scenes to the proceedings. Geoff Baron played the strong, commanding figure of General Waverly with the hidden talent of his receptionist, Martha, played by the wonderful Joanne Gill. The Haynes sisters, Betty played by Jenny Gill and Judy played by Leanne Bradshaw were simply brilliant. Both brought wonderful stage presence accompanied by truly beautiful singing voices which each note making the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Special notice must go to the character of Susan Waverly, played by both Ruby Whittaker and Freya Allison. There was such confidence in the performance and with being on a stage in front of a packed crowd and when she gets her chance to shine, it brought tears to the eyes. Finally, the performances of Bob Wallace and Phil Davis played by Peter Rigney and David Barratt were phenomenal. Their chemistry on stage as a duo worked perfectly giving the impression that they were the best of friends. They worked brilliantly off each other and both could sing and dance. The combination of talents was definitely one of the best that I have seen and I am sure that Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye themselves would join me in the plaudits.
Christmas truly arrived during the final rendition of the title song in which the whole auditorium joined in and that was followed by a truly, magical touch that pieced everything together. A wonderful musical performed superbly by one of the best operatic society’s not just in the North West, but the whole country.
The show runs nightly up to and including Saturday 19th November at 7.30pm. A show and a collective performance that will not disappoint.