Review of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas The Musical
Book by David Ives & Paul Blake
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Directed by Michael Fontaine
Music Direction by Ginger Beavers
Choreography by Joseph A. Favalora
For tickets & schedule:
6th Street Playhouse
Santa Rosa, CA
RUN: December 1-23, 2017
RATING: 4 of 5 stars
(December 8, 2017)
White Christmas is a vintage holiday musical, filled with nostalgia, romance, and showstopping numbers. To some, it evokes memories of sitting with hot cocoa watching Bing Crosby belting out the famous song, Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye lightly whirling in unison to “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” and luminous Rosemary Clooney from the 1954 film. To others, it is a song that appears when requesting a holiday themed music stream, without the context of a story.
Army buddies Phil Davis and Bob Wallace have made a name for themselves after World War II with their dazzling song and dance revue, and through a combination of accidental and playfully planned circumstances, board a train to a failing Vermont inn, giving up their luxury Florida vacation. To their surprise, it is run by General Henry Waverly, whose livelihood is in serious trouble. The two hatch a scheme to bring the old 151st Division to the inn for Christmas, to turn his fortunes around. Along the way, they meet the Haynes sisters, and sparks fly with the passionate duo, leading to a festive finale bubbling with holiday cheer.
Brandy Noveh’s Betty Haynes is poised, with a lovely voice for “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” and its rich complexity. Her irritation at Bob’s callus attitude and its transformation into admiration is subtle and well handled. Christopher Vettel’s crotchety Bob Wallace is compelling, portraying the hard shelled exterior that easily cracks when those he loves are in need. The pleasure-seeking younger couple, Judy Haynes (Morgan Harrington) and Phil Davis (Caleb Daniel Noal), ricochet through an emotional roller-coaster. Unfortunately the musical’s age shows through with a pair of ditzy showgirls who follow him around simply to make sexual innuendos.
Choreographed by Joseph A. Favalora with music direction from Ginger Beavers, sparkling chorus numbers emerge with a fun tap routine opening the second act in “I Love a Piano” and the smooth night club rendition of “Blue Skies” interrupted by comedic scene crossings from the flustered general and his staff. The dances needed further rehearsal to be fully effective, but the parade of colorful costumes from Pat Fitzgerald and jubilant stage presence of the cast, particularly Hillary St. John, is charming throughout the songs.
Jacinta Gorringe as Martha Watson commands vaudevillian style with sincere affection for those under her care. “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” is a highlight with humor and flair. Smelting the bit part of Ezekiel into comedic gold, Tim Hayes shuffles through the barn, grunting at the stage manager’s hysterical outbursts to rapturous laughter from the audience.
White Christmas is a holiday treat with just enough sentiment to warm the heart, lively dances, and an engaging cast. 6th Street Playhouse has caught the Christmas spirit this season with a delightful production of this classic musical.