IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS (National Tour)
Theseus Productions, LLC and Theater of the Stars, Inc
Based upon the Paramount Pictures film
Written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, Melvin Frank
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives and Paul Blake
Bass Hall, Fort Worth
Director -- Norb Joerder
Musical Director/Conductor -- John Visser
Assistant Musical Director -- David Weinstein
Choreographer -- Randy Skinner
Stage Manager -- Sarah Marshall
Assistant Stage Manager -- Elena Russo
Scenic Design and Adaptation -- Kenneth Foy
Set Design for Broadway -- Anna Louizos
Costume Design -- Carrie Robbins
Lighting Design -- Ken Billington
Sound Design -- Peter Fitzgerald
Orchestrations -- Larry Blank
Drummer -- Louis B. Crocco
Vocal & Dance Arrangements -- Bruce Pomahac
Bob Wallace -- Stephen R. Buntrock
Phil Davis -- David Elder
Ralph Sheldrake -- Tony Lawson
General Henry Waverly -- Joseph Costa
Ed Sullivan Announcer -- Don Rey
Rita -- Melinda Cowan
Rhoda -- Amanda Paulson
Tessie -- Lindsie VanWinkle
Betty Haynes --Stefanie Morse
Judy Haynes -- Shannon M. O'Bryan
Jimmy -- Matthew Schneider
Mr. Snoring Man -- Richard Pruitt
Mrs. Snoring Man -- Denise Nolin
Train Conductor -- Don Rey
Martha Watson -- Ruth Williamson
Susan Waverly -- Maria Knasel
Ezekiel -- Richard Pruitt
Mike (Stage Manager) -- Don Rey
Sheldrake's Secretary -- Denise Nolin
Regency Room Announcer -- Don Rey
Regency Room Dancers- Scott Brateng
Reviewed Performance 11/29/2011
Reviewed by Laurie Lynn Lindemeier, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
In this day and age human perfection often turns out to be a fine job of airbrushing on a photo or lip syncing in a show. This was not the case in Tuesday evening's very lively performance of IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS in the Ball Hall. The show began with an overture as crisp and tight as the top of
snow drift on a zero degree day - no wonder the orchestration by Larry Blank received a Tony nomination in 2009.
Perhaps I'm the only person alive in the U.S. who hasn't seen the 1954 film version of this story starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. However, I didn't feel left out and was utterly enchanted by this fairytale-like Broadway version of the musical set in the post World War II era.
Feel-good Christmas stories are timeless, and if you're looking for a flashy and fun family activity, this show would be your ticket. Last evening as I gazed across the nearly full, beautiful Bass Hall I saw an audience dolled up in red sequins and feathers rivaling the festively costumed performers and creating a panorama Christmas feast for my eyes that flowed from the stage to the back walls.
Although I enjoyed ogling the beautiful costumes designed by Carrie Robbins, I didn't observe any suspense in this show?not surprisingly. It's a red/green, white, fluffy Christmas show with a totally predictable "nice" plot, but I'm good with that. With all the strife in the world today it's quite nice to lean back in one's seat and lull in a sweet story. The biggest questions tackled were: Will Betty and Bob unite? Will it snow? Will the inn be filled?
For a few hours I soaked in sonorous singing, dynamic dancing, and snowflakes?.oops, did I say that? The dark blue curtain did have sparkling snowflakes on it but?I won't say another word to ruin the "suspense" for you.
The Texas audience around me also gobbled up this delicious wintery show like eggnog and fudge. At the opening of the second act they clapped wildly and gave a standing ovation to "I Love a Piano." In this scene the men in white suits and women in black satin pants created a visual pattern resembling piano keys. Were that not stunning enough, their precise synchronization helped me understand why, to date, I've never been terribly fond of tap dancing scenes. Until last night I'd never witnessed one performed like it should be. Endless variety in the spins, turns and kicks, and the sound of the taps on the stage making one sound even though dozens of dancers executed the same move was spectacular.
The story began in 1944 with an American troupe performing in the war zone to keep up their spirits at Christmas, and then flashed forward to the "modern" era of 1954 when the same soldiers had gone on with their lives. The vocals were strong throughout the cast. In the duet "Count Your Blessings," the balanced
voices of Stephen Buntrock as Bob Wallace and Stefanie Morse as Betty Haynes complimented each other well. The duet "Sisters" performed by Betty and her sister Judy played by Shannon M. O'Bryan was beautiful, with the blue dresses flowing and large fans waving. However, I would've liked to hear the volume between the voices evenly matched. The lower voice was over-powered by the upper - still the dancing was executed with lovely fluency.
Later, Bob awkwardly recreated the blue fan duet with his buddy, Phil Davis played by David Elder. In this clear imitation of Betty and Judy, the two "fellas" killed in their drag-queen wannabe routine with their pants rolled up to knickers length revealing plaid socks held up by garters.
Ruth Williamson played the red-headed performer Martha Watson hailed as the belting "Megaphone Martha." Her warm rich tones were not at all harshly loud to my ears. Ms. Williamson obviously enjoyed her top hat and cane scene as did the audience. The young Marian Knasel played the darling General's granddaughter and recreated the top hat and cane scene with precise prancing that delighted the audience.
In general, one could say this performance sparkled like a snowflake on black velvet. The Vermont barn theatre became a stunning scene, with a blue sky backdrop for Bob and the male chorus dancing in white suits with yellow accents.
The keeper of the barn, Ezekiel Foster, was played by Richard Pruitt with minimal grunts and "ah-yups" in a New England lingo that generated huge laughs from the audience. He truly demonstrated the truth in "less is more."
Amanda Paulson as Rhoda and Melinda Cowan as Rita played the quirky pair of chorus girls with a never-ending desire to create a new look. Their horse ninny laughing and bizarre antics kept us entertained.
A moment that flashed by in a few seconds delighted me. Stiff-backed General Henry Waverly played by Joseph Costa was caught up in the bouncy chorus routine. He tapped two steps and snapped his finger once as though he was getting away with something, like a child snatching one more piece of candy while no one's looking. The General dropped his sand paper personality fa?ade for a moment - the hundreds of folks in the Bass Hall knew his secret?he's a wild and crazy guy!
Review the words of the title song as you'll be invited to take a stab at singing along with "White Christmas." The final snowfall, err, I mean performance is December 4th.
IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS
Bass Performance Hall
4th and Calhoun Streets, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Runs through December 4th
Remaining Performance Dates: Friday, 12/2 at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, Saturday 12/ 3 at 2:00pm & 8:00pm, Sunday at 2:00pm
Tickets prices range from $27.50--$110.00.
For info & tix call 817-212-4280
or purchase online at www.basshall.com