‘White Christmas’ Beloved Holiday Classic

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 - 6th Street Playhouse

Photo by Eric Chazankin.

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.

White Christmas - 6th Street Playhouse

Photo by Eric Chazankin.

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.

White Christmas - 6th Street Playhouse

Photo by Eric Chazankin.

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.

The Secret of Happiness is ‘Daddy Long Legs’

Main Stage West - Daddy Long Legs

Jervis (Tyler Costin) professes his love to Jerusha (Madison Genovese). Photo by Eric Chazankin.

Review of Daddy Long Legs
Music and Lyrics by Paul Gordon & John Caird
Directed by Elly Lichenstein
Musical Direction by Dave MacNab
For tickets / schedule :
Main Stage West, Sebastopol
Tickets: $30, $25 Senior 65+, $15 Students

RUN: November 17 – December 10, 2017
RATING: 5 of 5 stars

(November 30, 2017)

Daddy Long Legs is a delightful and intelligent Edwardian romance set to music, which ebbs and flows in a soft current of sound, rather than creating distinct, disjointed songs. Feather light with an edge of wit, it follows the story of Jerusha Abbott, an orphan who is sponsored to attend college by a mysterious benefactor. His attempt to remain anonymous crumbles as he reads her lively, engaging letters, addressing him playfully as “Daddy Long Legs” from a brief glimpse she had of his height. Curiosity gets the better of studious Jervis Pendleton, and he introduces himself without revealing the nature of their true relationship, swiftly falling in love with the clever orphan. He faces the task of admitting that he is Daddy Long Legs, risking losing her forever.

Main Stage West - Daddy Long Legs

Jerusha (Madison Genovese) muses on her letter to Daddy Long Legs (Tyler Costin). Photo by Eric Chazankin.

The orchestra is as much a character in this musical as the actors, led by musical director Dave MacNab in a velvet cascade of sound carrying the audience through Jerusha’s four years of education and discovery. Missy Weaver’s lighting design and Elizabeth Craven’s set transform the miniature stage into multiple rooms, weaving between spoken letters and chance encounters for a cohesive narrative. Costume designs by Adriana Gutierrez are simple and accurate, reflecting the conservative personalities in this two-hander.

Elegant and sincere, Madison Genovese as Jerusha Abbott captures the era’s poise without sacrificing passion and candid outbursts of frustration. Tyler Costin’s Jervis Pendleton journeys from an uptight aristocrat who is sure of himself, to a warm, genuine human being capable of love and sacrifice. Their chemistry onstage is magical, with a mutual respect and admiration.

Main Stage West - Daddy Long Legs

Jervis (Tyler Costin) is torn between his two personas. Photo by Eric Chazankin.

Daddy Long Legs is not flashy or sensational, it is like wandering through a field of brittle grass and coming across a perfectly formed cluster of wildflowers in gentle colors that is painfully beautiful, set apart from the surrounding desert. There is a refreshing, restorative power to this sort of play that is desperately needed.

Family Fun Under the Sea with ‘The Little Mermaid’

SRJC Theatre Arts - The Little Mermaid

Ariel (Ellie Condello) longs to be where the people are. Photo by Tom Chown.

Review of Disney’s The Little Mermaid
Book by Doug Wright
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Directed by John Shillington
Music Direction by Janis Dunson Wilson
Choreography by Alyce Finwall

For tickets / schedule :
Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts
Santa Rosa, CA
Maria Carrillo High School Theatre
Tickets: $12-22

RUN: November 17 – December 3, 2017
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

(November 18, 2017)


This charming musical is oriented for children, with interactive elements such as cue cards for “boo” when the sea witch appears, brightly costumed characters dancing through the audience, and cheerful dialogue aimed directly at the audience. Its flashy colors, sparkling crowns, and animated projections keep the little ones entertained during their undersea adventure.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid is loosely inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story, revised to include the relationship between Ariel and her father, King Triton, as the reason for her desperate plea to Ursula for legs to visit the world above. It adds a happily ever after ending, where she and the prince sail off into the sunset.

SRJC Theatre Arts - The Little Mermaid

Sebastian (Jordan Diomandé) tries to convince Ariel (Ellie Condello) to stay in her world. Photo by Tom Chown.

Ellie Condello’s Ariel is wistfully enthusiastic with a spectacular voice; I can understand why the sea witch covets it. Her gestures and timid dancing when reaching shore, unable to speak, read well throughout the large auditorium. Cruel and power-hungry Ursula (Sandy Brown) strutted through “Poor Unfortunate Souls” with such gusto that I heard snatches of it being hummed during intermission. Her hoopskirt gown with waving tentacles was created by Maryanne Scozzari, whose glittering costume designs were a spectacle to behold.

The vocal quality dropped with Prince Eric (Armand Beikzadeh) and King Tritan (Vince Bertsch). Their characterizations when not singing showed attention to detail and emotional investment, which balanced the performances overall.

Jordan Diomandé’s Sebastian is a comedic treat during the dinner sequence, scuttling under tables and dashing away from the chef. “Under the Sea” is a toe-tapper, with his melodic lead and the energetic orchestra conducted by Janis Dunson Wilson. Grace Reid (Flotsam) and Roberto Pérez Kempton (Jetsam) embody the eels with undulating hissing and expressive physicality.

The Little Mermaid will delight young children, immersing them in a vibrant undersea universe of dancing fish, foam, and mermaids. Feel the soaring yearning of Ariel’s “Part of Your World” and smile at the romantic shenanigans in “Kiss the Girl” that are timeless classics from Disney’s 1989 film, brought to life on stage.

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