Sheffield Crucible’s “White Christmas” unfolds as a theatrical tapestry with moments of brilliance, despite encountering some stumbling blocks. The true spectacle lies in the mesmerising choreography, a testament to the immense skill and talent of the hardworking ensemble.
The production’s true strength lies in the exceptional choreography by Alistair David and assistant choreographer Victoria Hinde. The large dance numbers are a spectacle to behold, showcasing the immense skill and talent of each ensemble member. Megan Armstrong, Charlie Booker, Alastair Crosswell, Adam Davidson, Jasmine Davis, Emily Goodenough, Ryan Gover, Chloe Hopcroft, Emma Johnson, Thomas-Lee Kidd, Hakeem Tinubu, D’Mia Lindsay Walker, and Lucy Young contribute tirelessly, their collective energy and dance prowess deserving a spotlight of its own. Their synchronised movements and dynamic performances inject energy and vitality into the production.
Director Paul Foster’s approach, however, leaves much to be desired, with static scenes and reliance on the revolve affecting the overall dynamism. Act one’s slow pacing and a bygone-era narrative contribute to an unsatisfying viewing experience. The initial opening lacks the transformative spectacle expected, with characters stepping out of a television screen unceremoniously, lacking the energy of such an event.
The cast, nonetheless, is a beacon of talent. Sandra Marvin, portraying Martha, emerges as a true scene-stealer. Her quick-witted humor injects a delightful dose of levity into the production, creating moments of genuine hilarity. Marvin’s vocal prowess adds another layer to her performance, providing a captivating blend of comic flair and musical talent. Martha becomes a vibrant, memorable character, thanks to Marvin’s dynamic and skilful portrayal.
Grace Mouat, in the role of Betty, delivers a performance marked by subtlety and believability. Mouat’s vocal strength shines through in her duet, creating a beautifully powerful moment on stage. Her ability to convey genuine emotion and authenticity adds depth to the character, making Betty a compelling and relatable presence throughout the production.
Stuart Neal, portraying Phil, stands out with a charm and charisma that permeates his characterisation. His remarkable dancing ability takes center stage in both group numbers and partnered dances, showcasing not only technical skill but also the ability to convey character relationships and the journey through movement. Neal’s performance becomes a pivotal element in the production, infusing energy and vibrancy into the narrative.
As Bob, George Blagden offers a solid and grounded performance with nuanced touches that bring his character to life. Blagden’s strength in acting is evident as he takes the audience on a journey, showing character development and growth. His ability to navigate various genres contributes to the overall richness of the play, making Bob a relatable and engaging character.
Natasha Mould, portraying Judy, brings a delightful energy and endearing quality to her characterisation. Her nice characterisation and fun energy contribute to the production’s dynamics, adding a layer of charm to the overall performance.
Despite the constraints of the book, the ensemble cast shines through in various styles of dance, a testament to their immense skill and talent. It’s a shame that their contributions aren’t more prominently featured. Their hard work echoes throughout the performance, bringing life to the stage.
Janet Bird’s costume design emerges as a highlight, skilfully encapsulating the era and infusing authenticity into the production. The costumes, both realistic and period-appropriate, take on a vibrant life, especially in the dance numbers, revealing the designer’s exceptional flair and talent in crafting a fantastical masterpiece.
The set design, also by Janet Bird, though initially lacking warmth, undergoes a welcome transformation in act two, aiding in creating a more intimate connection with the audience. However, the reliance on the revolve remains an underused opportunity, transporting characters without impactful purpose.
In essence, Sheffield Crucible’s “White Christmas” is a show of contrasts – from the dazzling choreography and standout ensemble to the static direction and uneven set design. While it may not achieve perfection, the production’s highs make it a worthwhile holiday experience.
White Christmas plays at the Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 13th January 2024. Tickets available here.
Photos throughout from Johan Perrson.