THERE is always a special excitement about going into a packed auditorium with an expectant buzz – and Yeovil’s Octagon was really buzzing with electric anticipation on the opening night of the YAOS autumn production of White Christmas.
The large theatre was full and an additional Sunday matinee has been added to the 1st to 6th November run to accommodate demand for this brilliant staged, heart-warming musical.
Originally a much-loved film, released in 1954, White Christmas was originally adapted for the stage at St Louis, followed by a production in San Francisco. It went on to be a hit in this country, where it toured for five years.
It’s not hard to understand the appeal and it’s not just the genuinely iconic title song. Irving Berlin’s score is jam-packed with show-stoppers – including Sisters, Blue Skies, How Deep is the Ocean and I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm – and the story is touched with seasonal magic, combining to make it the tonic we all need in these dark and dangerous times.
The central characters are song and dance duo Bob Wallace (Nick Harris in his first YAOS leading role) and Phil Davis (the versatile Shaun Driver), sister act Betty (Marie Brolly) and Judy Haynes (Jennifer Holland-Brewer), retired general turned inn-keeper Henry Waverly (Paul Howarth), and the inn’s housekeeper, Ethel Merman-style singer Martha Watson (Liz Stallard).
Wallace and Harris were among the General’s company in the latter stages of the Second World War and their loyalty to their old commander and desire to help him in his financial plight is the backbone of the plot.
It’s a very big show to put on, requiring dazzling tap dancing, first class singing, countless costume changes, and demands on the technical staff from full blown Broadway-style lighting to realistic snow.
The leading performers don’t put a foot wrong, from the great dance routines to the romantic songs, and there is a great cameo from Paris May Grassi and Charlotte Caine who alternate the role of Susan, the general’s grand-daughter.
With the combined talents of director Jeremy Tustin, musical director Kat Stevens, assistant director Sheila Driver and a first class band, White Christmas is a five-star hit – the perfect start to the festive season.