The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review
Irving Berlin's White Christmas

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.— the familiar line from the title song of the golden oldie movie musical turned into a live holiday crowd pleaser.
Kerry O'Malley, Stephen Bogardus, Jeffry Denman, and Meredith Patterson in Irving Berlin's White Christmas (Photo: Joan Marcus)
You only think you know what you are in for before the curtain rises on this nostalgia-consigned, melody-saturated, dance-enhanced, but more notably, numbingly staged retread based on two films: the black and white Holiday Inn (1942) and its glitzier Technicolor 1954 remake White Christmas. The former starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and the latter teamed Crosby with Danny Kaye.

The question is whether knowing what you are in for is commensurate with getting what you pay for? Of course not. But this is not to say that the listless and grievously miscast show that has landed at the Marquis Theater for the holiday season isn't doing its job delivering mediocrity gussied up in typical bus-and-truck trappings. It has the look of a road-show specifically designed (The settings by Anna Louizos are mercifully not nearly as atrocious as are the costumes by Carrie Robbins) and hobbled together to attract unsuspecting families and gullible tourists. How sad is that?

What this wan and dispiriting production, under Walter Bobbie's direction, lacks above all is simply star power. Although Steven Bogardus (in the Bing Crosby role), as Bob, and Jeffrey Denman (in the Astaire role), as Phil, go through the obligatory motions as a pair of re-united song-and-dance men, they don't have the panache that distinguished the stars in both previous films. Unlike the cleverly contrasted film players, Bogardus and Denman also share a physical similarity that dilutes our sequestered affection for them.

This is, of course, the stage version that has been playing engagements across the country for the past five years. Whether it is true or not, the show gives us the impression that all connected with it are tired. Unlike previous misguided stage versions of film classics such as Meet Me in St. Louis, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singin' in the Rain, and Gigi (to name but a few), Irving Berlin's White Christmas hasn't got even a whiff of wit or a stroke of cleverness about it. Although it boasted a grand Berlin score, the original film(s) was never much more than a perfunctory vehicle for its stars.

What higher hopes could we have for a revitalized or even reconstituted stage version than to anticipate that the original film script (by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank) would be honed to resonate with the sparkle that has previously defined the stage work of the show's co-author David Ives. Ives and Paul Blake (who is also one of the producers of the show) have, however, unwittingly spoiled what was essentially stale to begin with.

It is hard to figure out what exactly director Bobbie had in mind as the show limps from one plodding musical number to the next and from one boring book scene to next. Homage is paid to the mid-1950s with a scene from the Ed Sullivan Show and passing references to Kate Smith, Senor Wences, and Dorothy Kilgallen among others. One looks in vain for a bit of sincere sentimentality amidst the dross masquerading as entertainment. How ironic and depressing that Berlin, a composer known for his sentimental streak should have such wonderful songs as "Blue Skies," "Sisters" "Count Your Blessings. . .""How Deep is the Ocean" and even the title song (winner of the 1942 Oscar for Best Song) delivered mechanically and without much verve.

Another missing element is humor as the two entertainers who served in the same regiment come to the rescue of their former, now retired, army General who is on the verge of losing his inn in Vermont. Along the way, they find themselves falling in love with sisters who also sing and dance. Except for a nicely staged ensemble tap number to the strains of "I Love a Piano"led by Denman and Meredith Patterson, who plays Julia (the Vera Ellen role in the 54 version), the choreography by Randy Skinner is surprisingly pedestrian throughout and hardly challenging to the presumably seasoned dancers.

Bogardus, who seems more consigned than connected to his role and Denman, who has been smiling through the show since it premiered in San Francisco in 2004, just don't seem able to give the show the lift it so sorely needs. Perhaps the characters were never meant to be more complex than whatever can be summoned up through a Berlin lyric. We are grateful that Meredith Patterson and Kerry O'Malley (the Rosemary Clooney role) are primarily distinguished by their blonde and red hair respectively. Unfortunately on the night I saw the show, Ms O'Malley's big torch song "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" was sabotaged by faulty electronic enhancement.

Charles Dean is amiable as General Henry Waverly, but also has the misfortune to have to deliver a painfully bathetic speech near the end of the show. Susan Mansur, as the ex-vaudevillian innkeeper, puts some snap into her role and into her big song "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy." Until the big snow-falling finale, Mansur had the one number that pulled you away from the inclination to begin making your holiday shopping list.
Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives and Paul Blake, based on the Paramount Pictures film by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank
Directed by Walter Bobbie
Choreography by Randy Skinner
Cast: Stephen Bogardus (Bob Wallace), Kerry O'Malley (Betty Haynes), Jeffry Denman (Phil Davis), Meredith Patterson (Judy Haynes), Charles Dean (Gen. Henry Waverly), Susan Mansur (Martha Watson), Peter Reardon (Ralph Sheldrake), Cliff Bemis (Mr. Snoring Man/ Ezekiel Foster), Sheffield Chastain (Ed Sullivan Announcer/Mike Nulty/Regency Room Announcer) and Melody Hollis (Susan Waverly).
Music supervisor, Rob Berman
Sets by Anna Louizos
Costumes by Carrie Robbins
Lighting by Ken Billington
Sound by Acme Sound Partners
Orchestrations by Larry Blank
Vocal and dance arrangements by Bruce Pomahac
Music coordinator, Seymour Red Press
Stage manager, Michael J. Passa
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes with an intermission.
rom 11/14/08; opening 11/23/08; closing 1/04/09. Marquis Theater, 1535 Broadway at 45th Street; (212) 307-4100
Tickets $66.5- to $121/50
Musical Numbers
Act One
Preceded by White Christmas sung by Ralph sheldrake
  • Happy Holiday / Bob Wallace and Phil Davis
  • White Christmas /Bob Wallace, Phil Davis, Ralph Sheldrake and Ensemble
  • Let Yourself Go / Bob Wallace, Phil Davis and Ensemble
  • Love and the Weather / Bob Wallace and Betty Haynes
  • Sisters / Betty Haynes and Judy Haynes
  • The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing / Phil Davis, Judy Haynes and Quintet Member
  • Snow / Bob Wallace, Phil Davis, Betty Haynes, Judy Haynes, Mr. Snoring Man, Mrs. Snoring Man and Ensemble
  • What Can You Do With a General? /Martha Watson, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis
  • Let Me Sing and I'm Happy / Martha Watson and Ensemble
  • Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep /Bob Wallace and Betty Haynes
  • Blue Skies / Bob Wallace and Ensemble
Act Two
  • >I Love a Piano / Phil Davis, Judy Haynes and Ensemble
  • Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun / Martha Watson, Betty Haynes and Judy Haynes
  • Sisters (Reprise) / Bob Wallace and Phil Davis
  • Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me/How Deep Is the Ocean / Betty Haynes and Bob Wallace
  • We'll Follow the Old Man / Bob Wallace and Male Ensemble
  • Let Me Sing and I'm Happy (Reprise) /Susan Waverly
  • How Deep Is the Ocean (Reprise) / Bob Wallace and Betty Haynes
  • We'll Follow the Old Man (Reprise) /Bob Wallace, Phil Davis, Ralph Sheldrake and Male Ensemble
  • White Christmas (Reprise) /Bob Wallace and Company
  • I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm / Full Company
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of White Christmas
  • I disagree with the review of White Christmas
  • The review made me eager to see White Christmas
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email.

South Pacific  Revival
South Pacific

In the Heights
In the Heights

Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide


©Copyright 2008, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from