White Christmas is a musical based on the 1954 film (of the same name) that includes classic music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, and an updated book by David Ives and Paul Blake. The central story is set in motion when army-buddies-turned-musical-performers Bob Wallace and Phil Davis follow sister act Judy and Betty Haynes to a remote inn in Vermont. They then discover that their former General, Henry Waverly, is keeper of the run-down inn, along with former Broadway performer Martha Watson and his granddaughter Susan. Nothing is left to do but call in the troops and put on a holiday show to save the inn and remind the General what Christmas is all about!
Classic Plot and Music Get New Life in New Musical
HE SAID: Full disclosure: I LOVE Christmas, but I personally subscribe to the notion that the Christmas time of year doesn’t (or shouldn’t) start until after Thanksgiving. I understand that I am in the minority here, but its part of what prevents me from FULLY enjoying Christmas shows before the holiday season begins. That said, Town Hall Arts Center certainly has a wonderful winter offering for us this year. White Christmas, directed by Sharlene Wanger, hits all of the best parts of the holiday spirit – good laughs, festive music, and demonstrations of love for each other, especially those in need.
SHE SAID: I should also proclaim that I’m wary of growing sick of holiday shows this year. My biggest fear approaching White Christmas was that the classic music paired with the older plot would be a recipe for a slow and sleepy sentimental musical. I shouldn’t have been worried! This musical, though using old material, premiered only a few years ago in 2004, and was on Broadway as recently as 2008, and so it clips along through the endearing story and familiar songs, remaining engaging and entertaining.
Leading Performances Send Classic Music Soaring
HE SAID: Even though it was only created a few years ago, it still had the feel of an older musical; not just because of the Irving Berlin music but also because of the way the music was integrated/utilized in the story. A lot of the music felt added just to showcase music as opposed to being used to advance the story, develop character, or convey intense emotional which is more typical of contemporary musicals. That said, the music was performed well across the board.
SHE SAID: I agree that the performances were all enjoyable. The leading men, Scott McLean as Bob Wallace and Chris Starkey as Phil Davis, showcased strong but nuanced singing voices and capable acting chops. In addition, Davis delighted us with his dancing ability, both with partner Rachel Turner and solo in the second act opener. Mary McGroary as Betty gave an admirably natural acting performance, and her singing voice never sounded better as during her second act rendition of, “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me.”
Clever Choreography Compliments Comedic Performances
HE SAID: McLean and Starkey were definitely a great pair and fun to watch through the show. Starkey really surprised me with his tap dance solo in the beginning of the second act. In fact, much of the choreography by Kelly Kates was splendid, but the most of the dance numbers could stand to see some polish (especially the group tap number). McGroary’s rendition of “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me” was my second favorite number of the night. Winning that top spot was the group number “Snow”, where almost the whole casts sings a hysterically elaborate number set in a packed train car. It was funny and catchy, complete with a great choral sound (which was true for the chorus throughout).
SHE SAID: “Snow” was just one of several examples of the clever staging and choreography throughout. I agree that the ensemble members were strong singers and gave energetic performances in a variety of pleasing costumes (by Jimmy Miller) in all the group numbers. Several of them gave commendable comic performances as well – Eric Mather as Mike was hilariously neurotic, Rich Cadwallader was incredible as he performed never-ending variations on snoring, and Peter Ambrose was delightful as Ezekiel.
White Christmas Delivers Pleasant Holiday Nostalgia
THEY SAID: White Christmas brings a classic sound with the music of Irving Berlin, but carries with it a snappier pace than you might find in pieces created in his day. Strong performances in the lead roles with a wonderful supporting cast and strong chorus make for a solid line-up of talent. Whether you are ready or not, the holiday season is upon us and Town Hall Arts Center is joining the festivities early. White Christmas perfectly captures the spirit of the holidays in musical form, and balances pleasant nostalgia with quality modern performances in an evening that is sure to warm you from the inside out.
For more a full plot synopsis and history of White Christmas, the musical, see the wikipedia article. White Christmas, presented by Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center plays through December 26. Click the banner below for tickets and more information.