by Lorie Lewis Ham
No we didn’t have snow in Reedley, but White Christmas is on stage at the Reedley Opera House, presented by the Reedley River City Theatre Company and I had the pleasure of seeing it this past weekend.
First off, I have to say I have LOVED White Christmas the movie ever since I was a kid. I’ve seen it so many times I practically have it memorized, so I was excited to see the stage production for the first time. This seems to be my year of seeing my favorite Christmas movies on stage—first Miracle On 34th Street, now this. For those who have the movie memorized like I do, you need to come to this show putting all that aside as there are several little plot differences here and there so think of this as something new with parts of the old you love. But the same basic story and main characters we all adore are still there—the Haynes Sisters, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis.
For any of you strange creatures out there who have never seen White Christmas, the story is pretty simple. Two soldiers team up after World War II and go into show business. After finding great success, they run into these two girls and find themselves in Vermont for Christmas. There they find their old general running an inn and in trouble because no one is coming because there hasn’t been any snow. Throw in some wonderful songs, dance numbers, misunderstandings and romance and you have White Christmas.
Most of the old familiar and well loved songs are there, like of course “White Christmas”, “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” and “Count Your Blessings” to name a few, there are also some awesome other numbers not seen in the movie, but also Irving Berlin classics. One of my favorite songs in River City’s production of this show is one of the added songs, “I Love A Piano.” Nicholle Debbas who plays Judy Haynes and Max Debbas who plays Phil Harris were WONDERFUL in this song—bringing the audience not just great music but great dance. Another favorite was Blue Skies sung by Jeff Lusk who plays Bob Wallace and backed up by a big girl ensemble dance number.
Another River City regular, Stacie Hall, played Rita a ditsy chorus girl, along with Laramie Woolsey who played Rhoda they kept popping in out and of the show with the funniest lines and giggles. Heidi Harris, who played Annie in last year’s Reedley High Production of Annie, was adorable as the General’s granddaughter.
My favorite though had to be Brianne Vogt as Betty Haynes. I have been a fan of Rosemary Clooney, who played the role in the movie, ever since first seeing White Christmas as a child and had the honor of seeing her in person in her later years. Brianne did that role proud with a beautiful alto voice that was incredible in “Love You Didn’t Do Right By Me”.
When you think about the fact that this is a community theatre company, not Broadway, and they have to work around such a small stage—what River City accomplished with White Christmas is just amazing.
So if you are looking for some great holiday fun and music, hurry and get your tickets for the remaining performances before they are all sold out. White Christmas closes on December 23, 2011. You can learn more on River City’s KRL Theatre page.
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