Mix Romance, Comedy & Snow … What Do We Get? WHITE CHRISTMAS!

by Lila Achuff

How fortunate we are to have the Walnut Street Theatre begin its 202nd season with the nostalgic holiday musical, WHITE CHRISTMAS. We give credit for this classic, based on the 1954 film of the same name, to Irving Berlin for the music and lyrics and to David Ives and Paul Blake for the book. There were two limited engagements on Broadway during the holiday seasons in 2008/2009 and 2009/2010.

(l – r) Vanessa Sonon, David Elder, Jeffrey Coon, Julie Reiber and the company of WHITE CHRISTMAS, playing at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia PA through January 9, 2011. (Photo by Mark Garvin)

Personally, all I recall from the movie is Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen singing “Sisters”. (Time for Netflix) So I needed to be reminded that, in the film, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye made up the team of entertainers who exited WWII onto the big-time stage as song-and-dance men. In my eyes, this stage version was as if I had never seen it before. And was I ever bowled over!

Here’s the scoop – the drop-dead good-looking and talented duo of Bob Wallace (played by Jeffrey Coon) and Phil Davis (played by David Elder) are looking for love and before they can say “WHITE CHRISTMAS”, there they are – two cuties, Betty (played by Julie Reiber) and Judy Haynes (played by Vanessa Sonon) who just happen to sing and dance as well as the guys. The young men were headed to warm weather while the girls were on their way to a gig in a Vermont lodge. Since we’re talking snow, you know where they end up. BTW, one sister and one of the guys runs “hot” and the other two run “cold”. And the fun begins! We have to have a small world kind of thing up in them there woods so here it is – the owner of the Inn just happens to be the men’s former retired army commander, General Waverly (played by Paul Nolan), tough on the outside and a softie inside. Our hoofers put together a holiday show with their ex-servicemen and women buds to save the Inn that just happens to be going under. The General’s right-hand woman, Martha Watson (played by Alene Robertson) was a complete riot! (Alene, I want to follow you wherever you go … keep me posted.) His very spunky grand daughter, Susan Waverly (played alternately by Eloise Sharkey of Newtown Square, PA and Brigid Harrington of NJ) was a joy for me to hear and see on opening nite. A huge misunderstanding ensues, and all’s well that ends well.

The Director and Choreographer of this production is Marc Robbin, Artistic Director of the Fulton Opera House in Lancaster, PA. I LOVED the dancing, especially the tap number on many levels. Play that for me about one hundred times. The movement of the sets was deliciously smooth. My personal thanks to you for a super night of enjoyment.

You really don’t want to miss this heart-warming, uplifting show, and bring a hankie. Remember them? If you don’t, ask your elders. For old time’s sake, bring a real hankie … get in the mood. My guest needed it for the title song. Me, I like the jump out of my seat kind of song such as “I Love a Piano”. Do any of these timeless songs from this show do it for you?

Love and the Weather
Let Me Sing and I’m Happy
Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep (hankie-up)
Blue Skies
How Deep is the Ocean?
I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm

… to name just a few …

There was a humongous surprise at the end which totally delighted the audience. You just don’t want to miss this.

I’m dreaming of a WHITE CHRISTMAS… (It’s true … I’m Canadian!)

Till the next show …

Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives and Paul Blake
Directed by Marc Robbin
November 9, 2010 – January 9, 2011
Walnut Street Theatre
825 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

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