The Column Online

IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS

IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS

Book by David Ives and Paul Blake. Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin

Bass Hall, Fort Worth

Director – Randy Skinner
Musical Director—Michael Horsley
Choreographer—Randy Skinner
Scenic Designer—Anna Louizos
Lighting Designer—Ken Billington
Sound Designer—Keith Caggiano
Costume Designer—Carrie Robbins


CAST (in reviewed performance)

Ralph Sheldrake—Gil Brady
Bob Wallace—Sean Montgomery
Phil Davis—Jeremy Benton
General Henry Waverly—Conrad John Schuck
Ed Sullivan Announcer—Aaron Galligan-Stierle
Rita—Kristyn Pope
Rhoda—Kelly Black
Tessie—Chelsea Williams
Betty Haynes—Kerry Conte
Judy Haynes—Kelly Sheehan
Jimmy—Danny McHugh
Quintet—Chelsea Williams, Ann-Ngaire Martin, Matthew J. Kilgore,
Aaron Galligan-Stierle, Cliff Bemis
Mr. Snoring Man—Cliff Bemis
Mrs. Snoring Man—Ann-Ngaire Marting
Train Conductor—Aaron Galligan-Stierle
Martha Watson—Karen Ziemba
Susan Waverly—Makayla Joy Connolly
Ezekiel Foster—Cliff Bemis
Mike Nulty (Stage Manager)—Aaron Galligan-Stierle
“Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” Specialty—Drew Humphrey, Matthew J. Kilgore
Sheldrake’s Secretary—Ann-Ngaire Martin
Regency Room Announcer—Aaron Galligan-Stierle
Regency Room Dancers—Drew Humphrey, Matthew J. Kilgore, Bryan Charles Moore

The Ensemble:

Kelly Black, Stephanie Brooks, Darien Crago, Laurie DiFillipo, Sarah Fagan, Drew Humphrey, Bryan Thomas Hunt, Matthew J. Kilgore, Brianna Latrash, Ann-Ngaire Martin, Danny McHugh, Chris McNiff, Bryan Charles Moore, Kristyn Pope, Sean Quinn, Chelsea Williams


Reviewed Performance: 11/14/2017

Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Based on the 1954 classic Christmas film, White Christmas (starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney), Irving Berlin’s White Christmas has become a part of the yearly tradition for many each year, as they settle in and prepare themselves for the holiday season. Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas” has become one of the most notable holiday songs, and continues to be one of the favorites played year after year. I grew up listening to the Christmas music of Crosby, however, have never seen the film, “White Christmas.” It’s almost jaw-dropping, isn’t it? “White Christmas” is certainly one of those never miss Christmas films (it ranks right up there with Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and “A Christmas Story). After seeing the stage adaptation at Bass Hall, you can bet I will sit by the fire and enjoy the cinematic version. Now, all we need is the weather in Texas to feel like Christmas. But, I digress… on to the review of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” a part of Broadway at the Bass. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas begins on Christmas Eve, 1944, somewhere in Europe, two World War II U.S. Army soldiers, one a Broadway entertainer, Captain Bob Wallace, the other an aspiring entertainer, Private Phil Davis perform for the 151st Division. But, word has come down that their beloved commanding officer, General Henry Waverly is relieved of his command. He arrives for the end of the show and delivers an emotional farewell. After the war, Bob and Phil make it big in nightclubs, radio, and then on Broadway, eventually becoming successful producers, After the war, Bob and Phil make it big in nightclubs, radio, and then on Broadway, eventually becoming successful producers. Enter sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes, two attractive women who catch the eye of Wallace and Davis. They travel to Pine Tree, Vermont to headline at failing inn, the Pine Tree Inn (coincidentally owned and managed by former commanding officer, Waverly.) They are hoping for a white Christmas, but, upon arrival, there is not a snowflake in sight, and the chances of snow are dim. Director Randy Skinner certainly brought together an ensemble cast which worked well together, and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together scenery, lighting and costumes that enhanced the story told by these humorous characters. His overall vision and concept was very impressive. The production was presented in such a professional manner, it really had that “Broadway” feel. The actors and the musicians were so fully charged with energy it really was an electrifying experience at the theater. From the moment the show began, members of the audience were drawn into the world of the musical, and taken on a magical journey of spectacle, sparkle, and holiday cheer. One of the most interesting things about this specific production is that it isn’t necessarily a “Christmas” show. The story line takes place around Christmas time, and really only includes two Christmas songs. Skinner certainly delivers a stunning, and dazzling spectacle, similar to the cinematic features of the time period.

Choreography was also designed and executed by Mr. Skinner. As I sit here collecting my thoughts, and writing this review, I have to say that the choreography was one of the most impressive elements in the production. There were extravagant and detailed tap numbers, and large company participation on stage. It was mesmerizing. I think that tap dance must be one of the most difficult styles to master. The company handled each number with style and grace, and were flawless in their execution. It truly made the production more magical, and took me on a journey back to the 1940’s-1950, when large dance numbers were commonplace in cinematic features.

Set Designer Anna Louizos successfully transformed the grand proscenium stage into multiple locations. In a story with so many locations, each one was designed executed in a quick, yet, detailed manner. The transitions from location to location were seamless. There was never a moment that I was taken out of the moment of the story. I was impressed with Louizos’ attention to detail throughout the entire production. The use of backdrops was heavy in this production (as with most large-scale musicals) giving the audience the illusion of multiple locations, or creating a mood or emotion present in the story. I was very impressed with the train car and the large barn where the entertainment would take place each night. There was a full sized Christmas tree, with appropriate lighting, and even the It’s the little details like that really pull me into the world of the story. It is apparent to me that a lot of time, care, and attention to detail was incorporated from both, the scenic designer.

Lighting was designed by Ken Billington. Billington did a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate for each scene and mood. Through the performance, Billington’s cuing to enhance each scene was spot on. I especially enjoyed how the lighting complimented the scenic design, giving the impression of the many different locations-such as the Ed Sullivan Show set in New York City, and the Pine Tree Inn in Vermont. It is apparent that Billington worked in cooperation with scenic designer, Anna Louizos , and was able to create a very unique and dynamic view of the multiple locations. From the fantastic use of animated snowflakes in the opening of the production, to the backdrop of multiple colored stars as the story would jump from the reality to the fantasy world, Billington certainly was able to incorporate a unique twist on lighting, which dazzled the stage.

There were some apparent audio issues that plagued the production in the beginning, but, were quickly resolved as the production forged ahead. It was difficult to hear the dialogue and the music/lyrics early on in the production, as the orchestra was very loud, and the amplified taps of the tap dancers almost drowned out the music. However, as mentioned, these issues were quickly resolved, and obsolete by the time the second act started.

Carrie Robbins designed costumes that were not only appropriate to the 1940’s and 1950’s, but had a fine attention to detail. It was a nice touch to see some sparkle and dazzle to some of the costumes. The costumes really gave the production more of a “Christmas-y” feel at times. There was a huge cast of characters, played by a small ensemble of actors. Robbins used a great deal of texture, color, and vintage styles to create the wardrobe of the ensemble, and also paid a great deal of detail in the execution. One specific example that comes to mind is in the finale, when some of the member of the ensemble wore Santa Claus red skirts with a reindeer on them (a la poodle skirt, but more “Christmas” themed. I enjoyed seeing the journey of costumes and wardrobes from the beginning to end.

Sean Montgomery was incredibly believable in the role of Bob Wallace, half of the producing team of Wallace and Davis. Through facial expressions, body language, and the appropriate touch of cheesy humor, Montgomery convincingly portrayed the role made famous by Bing Crosby. Montgomery never faltered in his delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on. Mr. Montgomery’s innocence on stage throughout the story provided a wonderful journey for audiences. Mr. Montgomery had some lovely moments with his co-stars. There was a nice element of humor with Phil Davis (skillfully portrayed by Jeremy Benton), and some tender moments with Betty (played by Kerry Conte.)

It was impressive to see veteran stage and screen actor Conrad John Schuck in the role of gruff commander General Henry Waverly. Schuck has worked on a variety of productions and roles, including “Annie,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “M*A*S*H*.” Shuck also brought the much needed dose of humor, and the appropriate dash of tenderness to a tough exterior. It was a pleasant surprise to see Mr. Schuck on stage at the Bass Hall in this production, and I was impressed with his powerful vocal performance.

Another standout was young Makayla Joy Connolly in the role of Susan, the granddaughter of General Waverly, and visitor to the Pine Tree Inn. Connolly provided the appropriate touch of comic relief, and had a fantastic vocal range! Miss Connolly was able to belt those notes, and fill the Bass with a massive and impressive voice. Miss Connolly’s enthusiasm was nearly constant, and I am certain that she will have a voice for musical theatre, and Broadway as she matures, and gains more experience. Brava, Miss Connolly on a fantastic performance. It is certainly difficult to collaborate and carry the story to a production with the company of many adults. Miss Connolly handled the role with grace, and enthusiasm.

This production of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience. From the moment the music begins, you will be taken on a fabulous trip through time to the days when musical cinema and musical theatre was in its’ heyday. Who knows, there may even be a surprise or two in store for you. Texas may not get white Christmas weather this year, but, throughout the Bass Hall, tree tops are glistening, and snow is certainly falling. If you are dreaming of a white Christmas this year, look no further. Your days (and nights) will be merry and bright…and your Christmas will be white.

IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS
Broadway at the Bass

Bass Performance Hall
4th and Calhoun Streets
Fort Worth, Texas 76102

Plays through November 19, 2017.

Thursday, November 16 at 7:30 pm
Friday, November 17 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, November 18 at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm
Sunday, November 19 at 1:30 pm and 6:30 pm

Ticket prices range from $55.00, based on day and seating.

For more information or to purchase tickets visit http://www.basshall.com, or call the box office at 817-212-4280, or toll free at 1-877-212-4280.

Dallas Summer Musicals

Plays December 10-15.

Tue., Dec. 5, 7:30pm
Wed., Dec. 6, 7:30pm
Thu., Dec. 7, 7:30pm
Fri., Dec. 8, 7:30pm
Sat., Dec. 9, 1:30pm
Sat., Dec. 9, 7:30pm
Sun., Dec. 10, 1:30pm
Sun., Dec. 10, 7:30pm

Ticket prices range from $20.00, based on day and seating.

For more information or to purchase tickets visit http://dallassummermusicals.org, or call the box office at 214-691-7200.
rs_show.Close() set rs_show = nothing %>