A CurtainUp Review
Irving Berlin's White Christmas
We might as well be married. We fight all the time and we never have sex. Marsha, explaining her relationship with Hank.
When I'm worried, and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep, counting my blessings
Lyrics from the pen of Irving Berlin
Relax fellow Bah Humbuggers! I haven't gone sentimental on you. (Review spoiler ahead!) But I'm about to say some very encouraging words about the production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford, New York.
Sean Montgomery( Bob), Lindsie VanWinkle (Betty), Kelly Sheehan (Judy), Jeremy Benton (Phil)
(Photo credit: Pia Haas)
True, this is the same shmaltzy musical I reviewed a couple of times during past holiday seasons on Broadway. And true, while I found those productions entertaining, there was little question about their obvious tinsel time emotional manipulation.
We critics are often quick to give the devil his due, so
I'm happy this time to give the dancer his due. And that dancer is Randy Skinner who created the original choreography for White Christmas and at Westchester has taken on the responsibility for directing the show and recreating his dances.
The emphasis on dance makes a considerable improvement in the show as a whole, and the thrust stage at the theatre brings the energy right into the laps of the audience.
Based on the 1954 Paramount Pictures movie, which starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney, the plot is strictly a buddy story married to a back-stage, "let's put on a show" scenario.
Korean War vets Bob Wallace (Sean Montgomery) and Phil Davis (Jeremy Benton), now successful Broadway performers, are scheduled to leave for a Florida gig when they stop to check out a pair of singing sisters, Betty (Lindsie Vanwinkle) and Judy Haynes (Kelly Sheehan). You can do the math. Two guys, two girls, a couple of love songs and romance is underway — sort of. One duo, Bob and Judy, get off to a bumpy start. As we say now: "no worries."
The girls are, themselves, on the way to a holiday gig, in Vermont, scheduled to sing at an inn owned by the guys' former commanding officer, General Waverly (Jamie Ross).
After some romantic trickery, the foursome arrives at the Vermont Inn just as a heat wave has melted all the snow and endangered not only the Christmas show but also the inn itself.
How love conquers all, and song and dance triumphs over fickle weather, makes up the A-B-C plot. Fortunately there is an almost unending flow of delectable melodies from the great (and maybe currently somewhat forgotten) Berlin.
Skinner, with the help of associate director/choreographer Mary Giattino, has devised exuberant routines for the large and talented cast of 25, which were constantly rewarded with thunderous applause.
All of the principal cast members are polished singers and handled their songs with pep and panache. There are colorful portrayals by Karen Murphy as a Mermanesque hotel manger (her high notes could shatter glass in the top tier of the theatre), Seth Lerner as a folksy New Englander, and Nicole Kolitsas as the pint sized Susan. (Even W. C. Fields would have approved.)
While not exactly a "juke-box" musical, one can forgive the addition of several songs from the Berlin canon to those originally included in the show. The man never wrote a bad song. Among the highlights: the title tune (naturally), "Happy Holiday," "Count Your Blessings," "Blue Skies," "Sisters," I Love a Piano" and "Snow." If those don't ring a bell, there are ten others.
Costume by Derek Lockwood were just dandy and Steve Loftus' apt set design captured in quick succession, a New York night club, a train car, the lobby of an inn and a large barn, where shows can be put on.
Irving Berlin's White Christmas|
Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives and Paul Blake
Based on the Paramount Pictures Film
Written by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank
Directed and choreographed by Randy Skinner
Cast: Sean Montgomery (Bob Wallace), Jeremy Benton (Phil Davis) Lindsie Vanwinkle (Betty Haynes), Kelly Sheehan ( Judy Haynes), Karen Murphy (Martha Watson), Seth Lerner (Ezekiel), James Ross (General Henry Waverly), Kasey Marino (Sheldrake) Sean Auinn (Jimmy) Nicole Kolitsas/Julia White (alternating with Susan Waverly.
Ensemble, Avital Asuleen, Elish Conlon, Caley Crawford, Kurt Csolar, Alicia Hemann, Matthew J. Kilgore, Janelle Neal, Jake Primmerman, Sean Quinn, Colleen Roerts, Angela Sauers, Daniel J. Self, Kelly Skidmore, Thomas Sutter, Caleb Teicher.
Associate director/choreographer Mary Gitano
Musical direction Andrews Smithson
Set design: Steve Loftus
Costume design: Derek Lockwood
Lighting design: Andrew Gmoser
Sound design: Jonathan Hatton, Mark Zuckerman
Assistant choreographer: Matthew J. Kilgore
Through January 12, 2014
Westchester Broadway Theatre, One Broadway Plaza, Elmsford, N.Y. (Exit 23 off the Saw Mill River Parkway.)
Performances Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays matinees: Lunch 11:30 a.m., show 1 p., Thursday Friday and Saturday evenings: dinner 6:30 p.m., show 8 p.m.
Sunday matinees: Lunch 12 p.m. (noon) show 1:30 p.m.
Sunday evenings: Dinner 5:30 p.m., show, 7 p.m.
Tickets range from $54 to $80 plus tax and including meal and show. Beverage service and gratuities not included
Discounts available at selected performances for children, students and senior citizens. (Check www.BroadwayTheatre.com for details).
Call the box office for reservations, directions or further information at: (914) 592-2222 or online at www.BroadwayTheatre.com.
Reviewed by Chesley Plemmons at the opening night, Nov. 14.
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