Don’t look now, but the festive season is tiptoeing up on you - and every Wednesday at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre, you are invited to Jingle All The Way to Christmas.
In one sense, the evening might be named Jingle Half The Way, for the first half of the programme revisits the company’s Royal Hippodrome summer show - and none the worse for that. Producers Debbie Hackett and Alex Adams bring their experience and professionalism to a company which sings, dances and above all smiles its way through a lovely evening. These two should really be a brand: Adams and Hackett, purveyors of fine entertainment.
And above all, audience-pleasing entertainment: you know what you are getting. Most of the numbers are cannily chosen for swift audience recognition: this is no evening for edgy new material or undiscovered gems. The formula has a warm, unashamedly old-fashioned feel, recalling the variety shows that always filled this grand old auditorium in the past.
Golden-voiced tenor Grant Martins confidently fills the compere role with plenty of patter to cover the continuity. The eight ensemble girls look stunning in a range of shimmering costumes, and they both move and sing with beautiful precision and lots of expression. Forming an accomplished male quartet with Alex and Grant are Tom Hackett and Nick Hollands. And a simply delightful juvenile chorus shines with the brightest, widest smiles in town. Well done to Isabella, Amelia, Fletcher, Freddie, Abigail, Lucy, Layla and Ria!
First half highlights include some crackin’ comedy in The Fleet’s In, a tuneful Get Happy led by Rachel Brett, and a fabulous, energetic version of Good Morning from Singin’ in the Rain, with Laura Sivers in top form in the Debbie Reynolds role. There’s always time for a tap number, and the Act One finale absolutely wows the audience with a scintillating, breathless version of Top Hat and Cheek to Cheek.
And after the interval, we are eased into festive mood with a nice blend of warm and treacly Christmas standards and some slightly more off-beat or upbeat numbers. Tom Hackett’s Man with the Bag goes down well, and Alex and Laura put their own refreshing mark on the Pogues’ Christmas in New York.
It may still be damp and dreary November outside, but inside the Hippodrome, December is already glowing. Christmas is getting nearer and you can’t put it off for ever. Are you a local theatre-goer, supporting bright local talent? Or are you visiting the town, and enjoying the turkey-and-tinsel revels? Either way, this show is a pre-Christmas must. By Kevin Anderson.
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