by Terrance V. Mc Arthur
There are certain things you can’t escape at Christmastime—fruitcake, The Nutcracker, Jingle Bells, A Christmas Carol, tree lots, White Christmas….
Yeah, White Christmas, the movie with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and Dean Jagger. You know, the two ex-GIs-turned-performing-team who follow two girls to an inn in Vermont run by their now-retired commanding general, and they put on a show to try to save the inn….That’s right. You remember!
Imagine seeing that on the stage with a perky cast and lots of those old Irving Berlin songs. Stop imagining, and go to the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium theatre, where Children’s Musical Theaterworks is presenting Irving Berlin’s White Christmas—The Musical through December 16.
Turning a movie musical into a stage show is hard to do, because a cut from one scene to another location that can be made in 1/24 of a second onscreen requires changing backdrops, moving sets, and scurrying actors and crew with noise-covering music. Director Elizabeth Fiester accomplishes the task at a brisk clip, working with a mixed cast of 40 adults, teenagers and youngsters—lots of youngsters.
Nick Netzley and Don Aldape play Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, the Crosby/Kaye roles. Netzley is big and semi-burly, having played The Beast and Gaston in different productions of Beauty and the Beast. He has a rich voice, well-suited to the Irving Berlin classics he sings, and manages to show the caring behind the character’s world-weary exterior. Aldape is a compact powerhouse, capering his way through Kaye Migaki’s choreography with verve and style, impishly clowning as the lecher who finds himself drawn to a love that might get him to stop playing the field.
Heather Price and Hannah Huyck are the Haynes Sisters, Betty and Judy, the Clooney/Vera-Ellen parts. Price, recently the Baroness in GCP’s The Sound of Music, gets to show her full range of talents, here. She takes over the stage with grace and beauty, providing some sizzle to the romantic tension. Huyck is shimmering blonde hair, amazing legs, and toes that can tap through anything Berlin and Migaki can throw at her.
Tommy Hopkins, as General Waverly, may be in high school, but he prowls the stage like an old, graying warrior. Sharon Burley contributes Ethel Merman-esque belting abilities to the role of Martha, switchboard operator, adoring assistant to the general, and former Broadway hoofer. Maya Sosa (alternating with Citalli Sanchez) is winning as Waverly’s spunky granddaughter Susan, who gets the performing bug and belts like an old trouper.
Gabby Guaglianone and Samantha Gagliardi as a pair of giggly chorus girls, slither through their scenes in small outfits. Joshua Hovland as Ezekiel Foster, a gangly handyman at the inn, puts worlds of meaning into each reply of “Ayup.” Philip Martin is all oily charm and insincere intensity as Bob and Phil’s agent/manager, Ralph Sheldrake. Alan Becker is frenetic panic as the stage manager trying to make sense out of show business.
Since the plotline of the movie hinges on whether or not there will be snow in Vermont for Christmas, you know there will be snow on stage. Wait for it…Trust me…Wait for it. It will be magical, but there’s always magic when you’re dealing with the music of Irving Berlin.
White Christmas continues at Fresno’s Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 2435 Fresno St., Fridays through Sunday at 7:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on December 8-9 and 15-16, but no evening show on December 16. Tickets are $14-$22. Call 866-973-9610 for tickets, and 559-442-3140 for further information, or visit their website for information on “White Christmas” and the 2013 season.
There’s so much great theatre going on this month and KRL will be at most of it, so keep watching for more reviews! And plan on a theatre filled holiday because you’re not going to want to miss any of it. Check out our reviews up already of Beehive and Dad’s Christmas Miracle, Ordinary Days and Beauty And The Beast.