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White Christmas

Edinburgh Playhouse
4 stars
It may only be the fag-end of November, but the season of enforced frivolity, it seems, is already upon us. In the unlikely event of anything falling from the heavens that’s any whiter than drizzle, as an alternative to getting all Christmas card cosy by the fireside, you could do far worse than snuggling up to this vivid onstage remake of Michael Curtiz’s 1954 big-screen heart-warmer, which took its title from Irving Berlin’s song originally made legend twelve years earlier in Holiday Inn.

Because, all wrapped up in a snowflake dappled exterior as it is, the Technicolour heart of this unavoidably gooey showbiz romance is a cross-generational gift. Here’s a show that harks back to a time when the hits were born onstage rather than shoe-horned in with some ill-fitting yarn knocked out on the cheap. So while Berlin’s masterly score is the star here, as we follow the double act of Bob and Phil from army revues to Ed Sullivan headliners and the back-woods B&B being run into the ground by their old General, even the true love the guts find with all-gal duo Betty and Judy is inherently wholesome.

Craig McLachlan may be no Bing Crosby as Bob, but he and Tim Flavin as Phil are song and dance men to be reckoned with alongside Rachel Stanley and Kate Nelson as their sweethearts. As the blousy Martha, Lorna Luft adds some real-life Hollywood pzazz, and there’s many a grey-haired heart that still flutters over Ken Kercheval when they recall his turn as Cliff Barnes in Dallas. Leaving aside the army’s treatment of its veterans, this is a large-scale delight from start to finish. Just don’t be too disappointed by the rain outside afterwards.

The Herald, November 22nd 2007

ends

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