Christmas came a little early at the Civic Center Music Hall as a nearly sold-out crowd rewarded the “Irving Berlin's White Christmas” cast with a standing ovation Tuesday for delivering a lively performance filled with hot hoofing, beloved standards and plenty of holiday razzmatazz.
Based on the 1954 Hollywood classic “White Christmas,” the musical focuses on two World War II and, later, showbiz buddies, Bob Wallace (a song and dance straight man originally played on screen by Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (a playboy prankster portrayed in the movie by Danny Kaye).
The show opens in 1944 somewhere on the Western front. Bob (James Clow), Phil (David Elder) and their pal Ralph Sheldrake (Tony Lawson) are entertaining the troops before their beloved leader, Gen. Henry Waverly (Joseph Costa), bids his troops farewell to return to the U.S. for medical care.
Ten years later, Bob and Phil are showbiz stars ready for a vacation in Florida after an appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” when “lover boy” Phil drags a rather dour Bob to a nightclub featuring the sister act Betty (Trista Moldovan) and Judy (Meredith Patterson) Haynes. Phil and Judy are immediately smitten as they expertly dance and sing “The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing,” but wary Bob and Betty are left cold despite the heat generated by the dancing pair.
The fun ensues when Phil tricks Bob into taking the wrong train, and the couples end up at a Vermont ski resort where the sisters have a standing engagement. They soon learn that the Columbia Inn is run by Gen. Waverly and desk clerk/secretary Martha Watson (Allison Briner), but unseasonably warm weather cancels the promise of snow and empties the resort. With the general plagued with mounting bills, Bob and Phil decide to stage their own Broadway-bound review on Christmas Eve in the resort's barn to raise money.
Except for a few opening night flukes, the overall production was filled with laughs, spirited tap and ballroom dance numbers and plenty of Berlin classics, including “Let Me Sing and I'm Happy,” “Blue Skies” and “White Christmas.”
The evening's standouts include Briner as the busybody Martha, Costa's Gen. Waverly and strong performances turned in by all of the play's leads. The ensemble even wrapped up the show with a neat little bow in the form of artificial snow drifting down on the audience.
— Kevan Goff-Parker