IN CONVERSATION WITH WHITE CHRISTMAS’ WENDI PETERS
White Christmas Cast Performs at Fenwick’s to Launch Christmas Windows
Bargain Theatre have seen a sneak preview finale performance given by the London cast of White Christmas which runs at the West End’s refurbished Dominion Theatre from 8th November 2014 until 3rd January 2015 and it certainly looks and sounds very impressive. Aled Jones, Tom Chambers, Wendi Peters, Graham Cole and the entire cast of White Christmas the Musical performed the London premiere of the title song on a snowy Bond Street to the delight of shoppers and passers by. The famous corner balcony of Fenwick’s flagship department store was opened especially for the first time since WWII ended in 1945.
2014 marks the 60-year anniversary of the film starring Bing Crosby, and ten years since the musical first premiered on stage, in San Francisco. This is the first time the musical will have ever been performed in the capital.
David Walker-Smith, Fenwick of Bond Street’s Managing Director said: “If there’s one thing which conjures up an emotional feeling and endless festive memories, it’s White Christmas. We are so excited about welcoming Aled and the cast to Fenwick, getting into the Christmas spirit, and hopefully stopping traffic on a snowy Bond Street! Our windows represent a classic Christmas card scene and invite all Londoners to celebrate the important things in life this festive season: love, family, fun and friendship.”
Aled Jones, co-star in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, said: “The cast is absolutely delighted to be giving our first ever London performance at Fenwick of Bond Street and we plan to ensure it is quite magical. It seems a natural fit that an iconic department store steeped in so much history should host a performance of the most famous Christmas song ever written.”
The Wonder of Wendi!
We were delighted afterward to chat with Wendi Peters about her passion for musical theatre, her love of White Christmas, cakes, Corrie and all things festive!
Gareth: So you’ve been a busy bee because I know that you were on the BBC this morning, but that was up in Salford wasn’t it?
Wendi: It was yes. Straight after rehearsals last night I got the train up to Manchester, stayed overnight, was at the BBC for Breakfast, straight back on the train and straight here for this, this afternoon!
So is that a typical Wendi Peters day?
(Laughs) No, not quite as busy as that… but I did get out of rehearsals today! I spent the morning on the train while they were all busy rehearsing. It was a bit of a hectic day, but we all have to get out and tell people about the show.
Absolutely! Now you’re playing Martha Watson, that’s the same role that you had at The Lowry isn’t it?
Yes, last year was in Edinburgh and the year before that at The Lowry. Now we’re here in town! So this is my third time. It’s very unusual for me to come back to something again and again but I adore this show and I think it’s lovely that we only do it for a short run of time, so the joy is still there out of doing the actual show and performances. Of course, it’s lovely that they’re bringing it into town, that’s really really good. I think it’s about time, they’ve been waiting and waiting for a theatre to be free and now it is, because I think London needs to see this show.
Yes, and you’re going into the restored Dominion Theatre.
Yes, it’s beautiful. I saw a concert there a couple of weeks ago and they have completely repainted it. It looks lovely and it’s in red – obviously just for us!
Yes, and red seems to be the theme doesn’t it, because I must confess that you all look fantastic in your costumes.
Yes, it is spectacular the show – on stage and…..
Does that give us a clue as to the scale of the show? Can we look forward to an impressive set and sumptuous costumes?
I hope that people will be pleasantly surprised. I certainly was the first time I saw it a few years ago. I was expecting to go and see a provincial musical tour and was blown away by the spectacle and the size of the sets, the costumes, the lighting, the dancing, everything. I mean it’s full-scale Broadway.
Well that certainly gives us something to look forward to! You’re back in Corrie now…
Yes, just for a few weeks!
So you’re even busier than you normally are?
Yes, except it all sort of fitted in. I finished a children’s BBC drama called Hetty Feather, then I went on holiday for two weeks which was planned, then I came back and did Corrie for six weeks, had a week off and then started White Christmas! so it just all slotted in perfectly.
Returning to White Christmas, you’ve got a big solo number haven’t you?
Yes, I have… I’m very lucky! I get a fantastic, big, brash, Broadway, Ethel Merman style number, which is great. Top hat and cane… the works, we’ve got the lot! I get a great song to do there, I love doing it. I also get to do perhaps my favourite number with the girls; me, Rachael and Louise. We get to do a fantastic close-harmony trio which is very Andrews Sisters and we love doing that! There’s a lot of little dance moves in there and it’s great, I just love it – you can probably tell because I’m beaming, I just love doing the show. It has such fabulous Irving Berlin stuff, you can’t go wrong.
You’ve got me wishing I was seeing the show this evening!
Haha, you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks.
Now Martha Watson, she has the front of house welcoming role, is that right?
Yes, though slightly different from the film.
The reason I ask is because you had that marvellous welcoming, meet-and-greet role in ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ so I suppose there are correlations there?
Yes, she did a lot of that! Luckily, we don’t have to do any of that beforehand with White Christmas, but I certainly front the Colombia Inn. When the four guys get to the inn, I’m the housekeeper and I welcome them all there. She’s a bit desperate really since all of the guests have left because there is no snow! She is just desperate to get anyone to stay at this hotel!
She has to have a dry sense of humour and be able to belt! Does that fit you to a tee?
Erm, I suppose so, I would hope so…. I’ve got a pretty good sense of humour, most of the time (laughs)! I don’t suffer fools (smiles) but most of the time I’m fine with it! But, right, the belt, well I trained in musical theatre and my voice has always been that sort of alto-type, deep belting and the whole of Martha’s singing pattern in the show just fits my voice perfectly in the right place, so it’s really lucky.
So it could have been written for you Wendi!
I know. It could have been, (Wendi jokes, blushingly)!
Now Wendi, I know you see lots of theatre yourself. What shows have you particularly enjoyed seeing this year?
You know, I haven’t seen as much this year because of some family things but I went to see Urinetown at St James Theatre, I loved that, though I haven’t seen it yet at the Apollo. I loved Blithe Sprit, Dame Angela was fabulous. During the summer I was on holiday and busy working so we didn’t see an awful lot then but I went to see Forbidden Broadway which is just a great, it’s so tongue-in-cheek. I’ve got my tickets booked already for Assassins [at the Menier Chocolate Factory] which I’m very excited about and I’ve also managed to get some tickets for Emma Thompson’s Sweeney Todd [at London Coliseum], although I’m going to be working I think so somebody else might have to go instead of me.
Finally Wendi, I know you’re a great cook too, aren’t you?
I love cooking!
What are your tips for the perfect Christmas cake?
I’ve used a new recipe for the past couple of years, it’s Edd Kimber’s who won the first Bake Off, it’s in his book ‘Say It With Cake’. It’s a classic Christmas cake but it’s not a very rich one, which is good because I sometimes find them a bit too heavy, so this is a very natural Christmas cake. It has lots of marzipan, I’m a huge marzipan fan so a thick layer, with not quite as much icing. Start making it now, the end of October and when it’s made feed it every week with a bit more brandy. Then nobody will care what it tastes like because it’s just full of brandy (laughs)!
Well I wish you a very happy Christmas Wendi from all at Bargain Theatre and best wishes with the show.
Thank you, and you too. I hope you come and enjoy it.
Rehearsals for the West End premiere of Irving Berlin’s much-loved musical WHITE CHRISTMAS are well under way. The company is led by Aled Jones as Bob Wallace, Tom Chambers as Phil Davis, Wendi Peters as Martha, Graham Cole as General Waverley, Rachel Stanley as Betty Haynes and Louise Bowden as Judy Haynes, with Lori Haley Fox, Michelle Bishop, Phil Cole, Brendan Cull and Jonathan Halliwell. Also in the cast are Vikki-Marie Ryan, Lucinda Lawrence, Karen Aspinall, Emma Caffrey, Hayley Reed, Helen Patching, Vicki Davids, Jennifer Davison, Grace Holdstock, Ross McLaren, Joshua Lay, Matt Cheney, Jonny Labey, Anthony Whiteman, Eddie Myles, Stuart Winter, Matt Clark and Gary Murphy. Amy Snudden, Emily Robins, Sophia Pettet and Tatum Confrey will alternate the role of Susan.
Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS will open at London’s newly refurbished Dominion Theatre on Wednesday 12 November, following previews from 8 November, for a strictly limited eight-week season, ending on 3 January 2015.
Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS tells the story of two ex-army pals as they team up with a pair of sisters to put on a show to save their former General’s remote Vermont ski lodge that’s fallen on hard times. At the Dominion Theatre, an 18-piece orchestra will accompany the cast in some of musical history’s best loved songs, including Let Yourself Go, Sisters, The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing, Snow, Count Your Blessings, Blue Skies, Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me, How Deep Is The Ocean, I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm and, of course, the title song, White Christmas.
The stage musical is based on the Paramount Pictures timeless movie classic, written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama & Melvin Frank, which starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. The stage musical has music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and a book by David Ives and Paul Blake, and was originally directed on Broadway by Walter Bobbie, the director of Chicago. The musical was originally produced in the United States by The Producing Office, Inc. and BFI Productions, Inc. David Ives also wrote the Tony-nominated play Venus in Fur. Paul Blake is the producer of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
The production of Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS at the Dominion Theatre this Christmas will be directed by Morgan Young and choreographed by Randy Skinner, with Helen Rymer as the UK associate choreographer. Set design is by Anna Louizos, costumes by Carrie Robbins, lighting by Ken Billington and sound by Clem Rawling. Orchestrations are by Larry Blank, dance and vocal arrangements by Bruce Pomahac and musical direction by Andrew Corcoran.
Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS will be presented at the Dominion Theatre by Michael Rose and U-Live for White Christmas Onstage (UK) Limited.
Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS
8 November 2014 to 3 January 2015
268-269 Tottenham Court Rd
London W1T 7AQ
Performances: Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm; Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm
N.B. Performance begins at 7.00pm on Wednesday 12 November. Extra 2.30pm & 7.30pm performances on Monday 22 & 29 December. Extra 2.30pm performances on Friday 26 & Tuesday 30 December. No 7.30pm performances on Wednesday 24 & 29 December. No performances on Thursday 25 December. No 2.30pm performance on Thursday 1 January.
Running Time: 2 hours 40 minutes including an interval
Tickets: £37.50 – £67.50 + £1.25 restoration levy + booking fee