December 7th, 2011
White Christmas: A Theatre Under the Stars Production
‘Tis the season… When I was growing up, my mom made it a point to watch White Christmas as many times as possible leading up to the big, not so snowy, day. It was a tradition. There was always one huge bowl of popcorn for herself and tiny bowls for my sister and me; popped perfectly, exactly the way her father taught. Our eyes would be glued on Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen for the rest of the night and the songs would linger for days after.
Since I’m all adult and stuff now there haven’t been as many opportunities to watch the movie. When my girlfriend told me she had tickets to the Theatre Under the Stars production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at Hobby Center yesterday, there was no hesitation in saying “yes” even though as far as nostalgia is concerned, it couldn’t hardly live up to my warm, fuzzy memories.
Unlike most titles that share both stage and screen, White Christmas was originally a movie (the aforementioned 1954 hit). I should take that back as many modern silver screen hits are being reproduced for the stage including TUTS next musical Bring It On: The Musical. But White Christmas (the movie) was based around Wallace and Davis creating a variety show, which makes White Christmas (the play) easy to adapt by integrating some classic Irving Berlin songs into the outline.
The tweaks made here and there to make White Christmas better on stage don’t turn the production into a completely new experience over the movie. They are little surprises, Easter eggs for the audience who think they know exactly what will happen next and make for a refreshing venture.
For those of you that have never seen White Christmas (and I found out during the intermission that my girlfriend was one of those people), it’s the story of war buddies that go into show business together after they’ve served their country during World War II. Wallace and Davis’ success catches the eye of one of their company’s mates who of course asks them the favor of checking out his sisters’ lounge act (the Haynes Sisters, Betty and Judy).
This encounter leads Wallace and Davis on a detour to Vermont to chase the sisters to their next act (unbeknownst to Wallace), which puts them face to face with an unexpected inn-keeper, their former general. Too proud to ask for help, General Waverly is trying to find his way back into the Army while the showbiz types try to devise a plan to help save the inn.
Really, it’s a classic tale of boys meet girls and conspire to save the inn while falling into and out of love all the while.
Not to take anything away from the actors (particularly the strong performances by Matt Loehr as Phil Davis and Michelle DeJean as Betty Haynes), the stage designs were some of my favorite parts of TUTS’ White Christmas. Transitioning from office to train car to hotel lobby to barn and then night club… well, I was kind of looking forward to each following scene to see how they would make best use of the stage space. Plus, there’s a nice little surprise as the show wraps up for the audience that I’ll keep to myself for those of you that plan to see it.
And that’s exactly what you should do: Plan to see it. The limit run is from yesterday, December 6th until December 18th giving you seven more days of Christmas to enjoy before ravaging the presents left under the tree. It’s everything that you nostalgia revelers will want it to be with a few bonuses, like adding your singing voice to the grand finale. Be honest, you do it anyway when you’re in front of the TV watching the movie for the umpteenth time.