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Theatre Review: Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at DCTC

White ChristmasThe stage version of the familiar movie White Christmas is a great blend of tradition, familiarity, and production value. The story follows Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, soldiers-turned-entertainers who become smitten with the Hayes sisters, and follow them to quaint Pinetree, Vermont for Christmas. As luck would have it, their old general is managing the very inn where the sisters are performing, and the two pairs of performers band together to try to save the inn, save Christmas, and save their relationships in one fell swoop. This recent stage version tells the story efficiently and well, making steady progress through several opportunities for gorgeous costume and scene design.

White Christmas Bring Lush But Homey Feel to the Buell

HE SAID: Every Christmas loving person has their favorite holiday viewing pleasure and it is easy to see why for so many it is White Christmas. It is a heap of fun with some iconic holiday songs – especially the titular tune. I do love this show, but I have never seen it on this scale and I have to admit I felt that the space was a bit too large for a piece with so many intimate moments.

SHE SAID: I can see what you mean about it being huge — for me, a lot of the huge sets were gorgeous and added some extravagance for the holiday season. Although touching, I’m not sure I would call it intimate — this show is almost pure cheese, but if there is one time of the year I’m almost always in the mood for cheese, it’s Christmas time! Although the plot isn’t very complicated, it’s engaging enough to keep you invested, and it does more than most modern ‘jukebox’ musicals to weave songs into the story.  And the songs are really the reason to see this show — several of them are bound to be stuck in your head for days afterwards (in the good way!).

Leading Voices and Legs Deliver

White Christmas

Nicolas Dromard as Phil Davis and Kate Marilley as Judy

HE SAID: The most locally recognizable face in the show is Mike Hartman as General Waverly, which is unusual for a show produced by the Denver Center Theatre Company. That said, the four leads were all great. I especially liked the  comedy of Nicolas Dromard as Phil Davis. I think the surprising moments performances came from Dorothy Stanley as Martha Watson and Kaelee Hart as “Broadway Sue.” The performance we saw had the audience applauding vigorously and almost stopped the show.

SHE SAID: I agree that the talent seen in this production is top-notch. For me, I think the two leading men (Dromard and Tom Galantich) were ever so slightly eclipsed by the two leading women (Amy Bodnar and Kate Marilley). Although I enjoyed them both, Marilley as Judy was a true triple threat of a sort that just isn’t that common anymore. I especially loved her dancing and was just blown away that she had other talents as well! The ensemble dancers were also very impressive, although I thought that some of the group numbers were ever so slightly less polished than they could have been. Everyone was clearly doing the choreography well, it just wasn’t always as perfectly synchronized as it could have been.

Designers Capture Luxury of Royalty

HE SAID: I felt the same way about some of the choreography earlier on in the show, but then the tap number – which is always dangerous because you can hear when people are out of sync – was spot on. I think sets didn’t help with my sense that the space was too large for the show. The only set that made sense to be so large was the porch set of the inn during “Count Your Blessings.” It had a lot of detail and the shimmering lights — you really got to see a beautiful night scene.

White Christmas

Stunning Scenic Design by Anna Louizos

SHE SAID: The porch setting was my absolute favorite! I literally said “oooh” as the curtain rose to reveal it. In general, I thought that the design and technical elements were as good as most Broadway tours (that you might be used to seeing in the Buell). The huge and impressive set changes required a few transition scenes in front of a curtain– maybe those were some of the missed chances for intimacy that you mentioned. It also gave the show a slightly dated feel — I feel like shows written in the past few years will try to write in such a way that those in-front-of-the-curtain scenes are avoided.

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White Christmas Provides Great Escape

THEY SAID: If you’re in the mood for a nostalgic Christmas story (but perhaps not one of the Dickens variety), White Christmas is a great holiday choice. The feeling that you’ve escaped into a different world is so strong and pleasant, you might forget about the actual chilly white weather outside!

Irving Berlin's White Christmas plays until December 24 at The Buell Theater, Denver Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information, click the banner.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas plays until December 24 at The Buell Theater, Denver Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information, click the banner.

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