Steve Houghton and Paul Robinson star in a schmaltzy stage adaptation of Irving Berlin's musical
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, a quick recap: ex-soldiers turned entertainers Phil and Bob are planning their new show in Miami when they meet singing sisters Judy and Betty. After a bit of back and forth, the boys follow the girls to their engagement at the Columbia Inn in Vermont, which they discover is run by their former general. Vermont, however, is unseasonably warm for the festive time of year, and the hotel is struggling. Can the gang present a show that will revive the inn’s failing fortunes, and maybe fall in love along the way? Of course they can: what kind of schmaltzy Christmas adventure would this be if they couldn’t?
David Morgan’s stage production stays with the schmaltz, but some minor streamlined story changes mean we’re never bogged down by saccharine sentiment. Steve Houghton (Bob), Paul Robinson (Phil), Rachel Stanley (Betty) and Jayde Westaby (Judy) are an engaging lead foursome, and while they’re occasionally forced to muddle through some of the script’s phonier dialogue, their song-and-dance credentials are impeccable. And choreographer Randy Skinner deserves massive kudos for his work here, especially in the showstopping second act opener, ‘I Love a Piano’.
The remainder of the second act sags slightly after that rambunctious start – the obstacles thrown in our heroes' way occur are dealt with in an increasingly hurried manner – and even the general’s big moment is something of an anti-climax. The production rushes impatiently towards that titular singalong finale – so it’s a good thing that when it gets there, all sense of festive cheer is restored, and then some. Add an extra star if you’re lucky enough to find snow falling as you leave.
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, until Sat 4 Jan.