Tuesday, December 13, 2011

review - White Christmas

CRITIC'S PICK
Irving Berlin's White Christmas The Musical
book by David Ives and Paul Blake
music & lyrics by Irving Berlin
choreographed by Randy Skinner
directed by Norb Joerder
@ Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Segerstrom Hall, Costa Mesa
through January 1, 2012

White Christmas is always a treat on film (1954) and even brighter on stage. The touring and original Broadway productions, which played Los Angeles only once at the Pantages, in 2005 were gloriously directed by Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Randy Skinner, who turns the second act opener "I Love a Piano" into one of the most inventive & lively tap sequences ever.
Now on stage at Segerstrom Hall, Costa Mesa the new touring company under the banner Theatre of the Stars Atlanta has supplied this production with meticulous director Norb Joerder, and wisely brought back Randy Skinner for his brilliant Tony Award nominated choreography. The sturdy acting company makes this production a sublimely frothy confection playing through New Year's Day January 1, 2012.

Stephen R. Buntrock (Bob Wallace), David Elder (Phil Davis), Stefanie Morse (Betty Haynes) and Shannon M. O'Bryan (Judy Haynes) give diliriously energizing performances and with Tony Lawson (Sheldrake), Joseph Costa (General Henry Waverly), the ever-resourceful and resilient Ruth Williamson (Martha Watson) and Caroline Farley (Suzie) offering consistently steady support, the ensemble is top-notch. Praise as well to Melinda Cowan and Amanda Paulson as the silly laugh.at.anything dancers Rita and Rhoda and to Richard Pruitt as Ezekiel who is drop dead funny even when he keeps his mouth shut.
Irving Berlin's standards are some of the best songs ever written, and the show contains many not used in the film. The stage score includes: "Sisters", "Happy Holiday", "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy", "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep", "Blue Skies", "How Deep Is the Ocean", "I've Got My Love to Keep me Warm" and of course, "I Love a Piano" and the title tune. Ives' and Blake's book stays faithful to the original film story, and although thin on plot, corny and sentimental, it's one of the most heartwarming pieces of fluff in existence. And youngsters are going to see it, so, irregardless of what they think or say, its legacy lives on. Bravo!

Skinner has scaled down his original choreography on "...Piano", but even pared, it has its own special zing. Kenneth Foy has adapted the original scenic design superbly and Carrie Robbins' costumes are breathtakingly beautiful.

Don't miss this glorious White Christmas now on stage through January 1 only in Costa Mesa! It's worth the drive.

5 out of 5 stars

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