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Christmas Crooners

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 28th Nov 2011 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

Christmas Crooners.jpg
CHRISTMAS CROONERS

WHITLEY BAY PLAYHOUSE

It may not be Christmas just yet but, with the temperatures dropping, winter is definitely upon us, so why not kick off the festive season a little early. With pantomime season nearly upon us, Theatre 1st Ltd is bringing Christmas Crooners to various theatres around the UK and Ireland to provide a bit of seasonal cheer – and, judging by the large audience tonight, it’s something people really want this year.

As the lights went down the curtains opened to reveal a simple but practical set, consisting of a fire place, Christmas tree, rocking chair and a few other items.  Its design succeeded in bringing a homely feel and brought back memories of the video for Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s “Little Drummer Boy”. The live band “The Jazz All Stars” were also on stage and blended in well with the overall feel and visual.

The four piece band led by the show’s Musical Director (Martin Hughes) on piano, was excellent and played with a perfect laid back swing feel. The show itself pays homage to Christmas favourites from Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, with a few other swing numbers thrown in for good measure.

To perform the music of such legendary vocalists is challenging enough, but to become those singers in look, manner and voice is a huge ask of any performer. The show, therefore, really requires three exceptional performers to achieve what it sets out to do.

Chris Vincent as Bing Crosby is very much the glue that holds the show together and he produced a great performance. Not only does he have a more than passing resemblance to Bing, but the attention to detail in his mannerisms, vocal tone and inflection were superb. A few times, when the lighting was subdued, you could actually be mistaken for thinking you were watching the original. Robert Grose , as Nat King Cole, brought a fantastic level of energy and charisma to the role but, while his songs were all well sung, he never quite got the gentle and subtle Nat King Cole tone.

As I previously mentioned the show requires three exceptional performances and unfortunately this was where the production fell slightly short. While Bing and to a large part Nat were brought to the Playhouse stage, unfortunately Frank didn’t make an appearance. Instead we got Jonny Parker whose suspect vocals and lack lustre characterisation (an American accent and a hat does not make you Sinatra), really pulled the show down. 

That being said, Director Stephen Leatherland, has created a solid show with a great relaxed, almost informal feel about it. The song selection was fantastic featuring all the classic Christmas songs (White Christmas, Jingle Bells, Let It Snow), add to that some cheesy gags and a bit of audience participation, and the audience headed out into the cold, humming a tune and feeling suitably festive.

Reviewed by Gareth Hunter 

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