Saturday, December 18, 2010
Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" the Musical review
If your dreaming of a "White Christmas" with lots of sequins, fancy foot work, tapping and even snow coming down from the theater then this is the show for you.
It's pretty wonderful to walk into the lobby of the bank of America Theatre amid snow flurries and leave with those same flurries coming down after you've seen the limited three week holiday engagement now playing though January 2, 2011. However be careful your not slipping on the ice as your trying to tap out the many Irving Berlin classics that have been placed into this production. One might say two many classics but I'm not one to complain as long as the song feels like in belongs in the plot and in this most of the time it did.
If aren't familiar with the movie which I had only seen last year, and even then all I could really remember was how tight Vera-Ellen's waist was then you won't be upset with all the changes that have been made to make it a full fledge musical. It's your typical successful boy act meets talented sisters where one sister likes one of the guys and the others don't get along so two of them come up with a plan to get the others together. You know the boy is ignored with the girl, girl hears boy sing "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep" and falls for him, then boy loses girl due to some sort of vague misunderstanding with the typical if you had only asked one question so she leaves as they are helping out a former general by putting on a top notch Broadway show in the barn or his sunny Vermont Inn!,” That's not even the half of it in the second act (?) the girl gets her chance for her own act forgets her morals leaves the benefit and dumps her sister to sing a torch song at a New York night club, while comedic sidekicks do some showstoppers, and if that hasn't worn you out the girl decides to come back to the love of her life and this benefit they've been rehearsing hasn't even started.
I thought the music was grand but with Irving Berlin how can you really go wrong. The film is perfect because it has the right amount of songs in the show and sometimes anything else feels like it could be overkill and out of place but there's a lot more going for this production. I thought the costumes were both eye catching (those Christmas sweaters made me feel like robbing one of the chorus boys and some not so. An eye sore really foam green suits, shoes, and pink ties? The choreography by 2 time Tony Nominee Randy Skinner (42nd Street, and Ain't Broadway Grand) is sensational and bring out the best in the dancers in "The Best Things Happen"..., a sensational "Blue Skies," and "I Love a Piano" is one of the best things about this productions.
As for the performers I though John Scherer's Bob Wallace had the voice and the leading man confidence but lacked Big Crosby's effortlessness in the role but he carried off his leading man status just fine. As for his side kick Denis Lambert who has a wonderful dancer and singer ability and played the second banana to perfection. Playing the lovely Haynes Sisters (the roles made famous by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen in the movie) Amy Bodnar displayed a powerful voice especially during the finale notes of her "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" however she had a vibrato you either loved or hated and her acting left a lot to be desired. As her sister Betty Shannon M. O' Bryan could dance up a storm, sang the part well, and was a total delight. In the other roles I thought Ruth Williamson brought her usual do anything for a laugh routine and belted out a powerful "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy" and "Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun" that lft the audience cheering. I see why she's called out for roles that need a comedic. If you want over the top do anything for a laugh then Ruth is your girl. Not that there's anything wrong with that for this show and helped at parts that might have been slowed down a bit if it wasn't for her. I that Erick Devine as General Henry Waverly played it with all stern but no warmth that I didn't get the impression that this was the man that his troops would follow up anywhere.
One quibble I had from the start when the show begins at the charity event overseas I thought they could have thrown in a few additional chorus boys dressed in army outfits to give the illusion they were putting on a show otherwise it felt like there were a lot of faith in the audience to make believe all these people were there.
Overall I thought this was a great show for the Holidays and adored some of the tricks they used to give you the full theatrical experience (spoiler including the snow coming down from the theatre.) At the end I found myself humming the music from the show and in this day in age when many musicals have scores that can't be remembered for years this was a real treat.
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” plays through Jan. 2, 2011 at the Bank of America Theatre. More info here: http://broadwayinchicago.com/shows_dyn.php?cmd=display_current&display_showtag=WhiteChristmas2010