Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Wonderful "White Christmas"

Fans of the classic 1954 film starring Bing Crosby will not be disappointed with this lively stage version.

Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust

If you have't figured it out yet, I'm a sucker for musicals. Especially those hailing from the golden era of Hollywood (say 1935-1960, in my book), and the cheesier, the better.

Yes, I know they're predictable. Yes, I know they're derivative. Yes, I know they're silly.

But I just can't help being captivated by stories set in a time when things were simpler, people were happier with less, and all we needed to cheer up was a reminder of the things in life that matter: people we love, and fun experiences.

White Christmas falls squarely in the middle of that genre. Essentially a remake of an earlier film (Holiday Inn, in which the enormously popular song "White Christmas" first debuted), White Christmas is really nothing more than a shameful attempt by MGM to make even more money off of the song and the holidays.

But it works.

Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust
And so does the stage version currently running at the Orpheum Theater. It manages to make a few (necessary) song upgrades (for example, swapping out "mod"-ern numbers in the film such as "Choreography" for swing classics such as "Blue Skies"), while still retaining the soul of the story (for those who don't know: famous male singing duo meets talented sister singing duo; they work together to save the inn of a former commanding WWII General over the Christmas holidays; love, wedding bells, and many snowflakes ensue).

This show has a great cast. While James Clow is certainly ain't Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace, he still has a rich, lovely baritone that happily slides amongst the swingier numbers and the especially lovely "Count Your Blessings." Love interest Betty Haynes is played nimbly by Trista Moldovan, whose powerhouse voice hides until she blasts through "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me."

Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust
Castmates Jeremy Benton (playing Phil Davis) and Kaitlyn Davidson (Judy Haynes) aren't quite as
strong, and that's okay; they play up their comedic angles and provide some fabulous dance sequences.

And the dancing is of note; it's rare to see so much tap in a show and particularly featuring a meticulously balanced 15+ person troupe. It's a real pleasure to see this return to this lost art so beautifully portrayed, and choreography alone makes this worth a visit. It's also worth noting, however, that the elaborate sequences do elongate the show - it closes out at a little over three hours.

White Christmas is just one more fabulous stop in this year's excellent Broadway season at Hennepin Theater Trust (HTT). It's a wonderful way to get in the holiday mood, and I'd highly recommend this to any Bing, holiday, or general musical fans - make sure to flex your guilty pleasure muscles and give it a go. Click here for more information about HTT and tickets to the show.
Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust

Also, while you're at it: Make sure you make a stop at some of the fantastic (and FREE) Made Here exhibits along Hennepin Avenue. HTT is doing some amazing work filling empty storefronts and getting local visual artists on the map; help support their work and enjoy a free show anytime. Click here for more information about Made Here.