Words by Alison James Pic © Piers Allardyce, REX
If ever there was a musical to get you in the festive spirit it’s White Christmas, the iconic 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby. The film’s a festive favourite of Aled's, so it’s something of a dream come true for the performer and TV presenter to be making his West End debut in a truly magical theatrical production of the show at the Dominion Theatre in London. What’s more, he’s playing Bing’s character, Bob Wallace.
“There’s only one Bing Crosby and his are pretty big shoes to fill, but it’s wonderful and I’m loving every minute of it,” explains Aled. “It’s a story that everyone loves at Christmas and is part, I feel, of all our Christmases. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you’ll know the song.
“The biggest thrill for me is getting to sing some of the most beautiful, best-loved songs to ever feature in a musical. Classic Irving Berlin songs such as White Christmas, of course, but also numbers like How Deep Is The Ocean? and Count Your Blessings. We have a proper band playing in the orchestra pit, too. Most productions these days usually have just a few instrumentalists but we have about 20. The Big Band sound of it really hits you – it’s gorgeous and powerful.”
Aled made his name as a singer, of course, but he’s not really known as a dancer – and White Christmas has umpteen dance scenes scripted into it. So how’s he coping? “I’ve got aches and pains in places I never knew existed,” he laughs. “There’s a period of nine minutes in the show that’s full-on, non-stop song and dance. It’s tough but I’m doing all right – the dancing’s good for weight loss and keeps me fit. I’m not a total dance novice, anyway. I did Strictly back in 2004 – as did my White Christmas co-star Tom Chambers in 2008. He did one better than me, though, and won the year he took part while I reached the semi-finals. In comparison to Strictly, anything is easy!”
‘There’s only one Bing Crosby and his are pretty big shoes to fill, but it’s wonderful and I’m loving it’
Remaining faithful to the film, Aled (43) and the rest of the White Christmas cast adopt American accents for the production.
“That’s going OK,” he continues. “I’ve had a few sessions with a dialect coach, although probably a bit of my native Welsh accent sneaks in. I’m not too concerned about that – the singing and dancing are my priorities. You’re always quite apprehensive when you embark on something like this. I know I can sing songs but I have to work hard on all the other aspects – it’s a challenge but a great experience.”
White Christmas runs until January 3. There are eight shows a week and Christmas Day is the only day off. “The show will be part of our family Christmas,” says Aled, who has a son Lucas (9)and daughter Emelia (12), with his wife, Claire. “It’s the ultimate show to be performing at Christmas and it’s really getting me in the mood. Only having Christmas Day off doesn’t sound like much but we don’t have an evening show on Christmas Eve so it’s fine.”
No doubt the family will be coming to see him? “The last time they came to see me, Lucas fell asleep!” Aled laughs. “They don’t really care what I do – I’m just dad. They realise performing is my job but they don’t get impressed. My son would rather have me play Lego with him than watch me perform, which is just how it should be.”
What with White Christmas and the recent release of album The Heart of It All, on November 24, Aled would seem to be wearing his musical rather than his TV presenting hat at the moment. “True; but next Spring my Saturday and Sunday morning shows on ITV return so I get the best of both worlds,” he says. “I like the variety.”
We can’t help but wonder how he looks back on his year-and-a-half presenting Daybreak, axed last April due to dwindling viewing figures, which he co-hosted with Lorraine Kelly.
“It was a valuable experience. If you can do daily TV live, you can do anything. Lorraine and I still meet up regularly for coffee. We were great mates before Daybreak and maybe even better friends now. I always wanted my own show so that’s been another dream come true. Two years was long enough to be getting up so early, anyway!”
For more details on the show visit www.dominiontheatre.com/theatre/white-christmas
White Christmas - fun facts
- The song White Christmas originally featured in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. It was intended that the legendary hoofer should play the Danny Kaye role in the film White Christmas, but he declined.
- According to the Guinness World Records, the version of White Christmas sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide. Other versions of the song, along with Bing’s, have sold more than 100 million copies.
- Bing was extremely modest about his vocal performance on the recording, saying, ‘A jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully.’
- Bing starred in three Christmas-time movie musicals before White Christmas was released in 1954 – the aforementioned Holiday Inn, Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St Mary’s (1945).
- Released in 1954, White Christmas was enormously popular with audiences, taking in $12 million at the box office, making it the top moneymaker for that year.
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