Review: Blue Skies For White Christmas

Taryn Darr and Phillip Attmore in The 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.(Photo Credit: Tracy Martin)

White Christmas, the musical
5th Avenue Theatre
Through December 23, 2023
Get tickets and more information here.

White Christmas is the stage adaptation of the traditional holiday film by the same name. Filled with wonderful songs by the great composer/lyricist Irving Berlin, this show is the fun-filled-family-safe gift-wrapped present with a perfect bow to cure the holiday blues.

The musical’s storyline is very much the same as the film was, but with a few variations. At a Christmas celebration, during the final days of World War II, two soldiers put on a show to raise the enlisted men’s spirits. Bob Wallace and Phil Davis (with the help of the unattributed third soldier, Ralph Sheldrake) are the perfect showmen with a wonderful song-and-dance routine. The boys honor their commanding officer, General Henry Waverly, and then sing a heartfelt Christmas carol for the soldiers. Years later, Davis & Wallace are major stars in the entertainment industry, and come across the sister act of Betty & Judy Haynes. While Phil and Judy find romantic comradery, the other half of their team finds instant clash of personalities. Phil secretly reschedules his partner to follow the girls to a snow lodge in Vermont. Aside from being under a heatwave with absolutely no snow, they find the Inn to be owned by their old retired friend, General Henry Waverly, and run by a spunky manager, Martha Watson. To help business, Bob and Phil decide to put on a show, with the help of the two sisters, and once again honor their friend, the General. Miscommunications and hijinks run wild forcing the romantic couples apart, and bringing them together in time to sing the hit title song, White Christmas.

The Ensemble are all excellent! This show requires a lot of showmanship, and synchronized tap dancing, and this cast delivers it in spades! Each member deserves the standing ovation (so readily) given out by the Seattle audience. Reginald André Jackson plays the “General” in an appealing and likeable stage presence. Candice Song Donehoo, as the spunky manager Martha Watson, steals the scene at every chance. Definitely the ‘comic relief’ of the show, Ms. Donehoo has humorous appeal without going to a caricature of the role. With the added song, not in the film, “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy”, her voice easily charms the audience.

The two female leads are the Haynes Sisters; Judy (played by Taryn Darr) and Betty (played by Cayman Ilika). Ms. Darr has a good stage presence and is likeable. She moves easily and her voice is definitely pleasant enough. Without question, it is Ms. Ilika that is the star of the Sisterly duet. Those familiar with the 5th Avenue shows of the past will recognize this talented performer from her many appearances on the local stage. Ms. Ilika’s stage presence is as strong as her voice, and that says a lot! The two ladies mix well when singing the classic duet, “Sisters”, and Ms. Ilika’s voice shines when she sings the sensual cabaret number, “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me”, or especially in any of the many duets she sings with Bob, “Love and the Weather”, “How Deep is the Ocean”, or another classic from the show, “Count Your Blessings”.

The two male leads, Phil Davis and Bob Wallace, are everything you could want from a couple of showmen. Phil Davis (played by Phillip Attmore) radiates on the stage, easily endearing him to the audience. His dancing and singing abilities are well noticed among his gifts for performance. His “Phil Davis” is the perfect teammate to “Bob Wallace”, played by Ashley Day. Mr. Day is completely charming the moment he walks out on stage. His voice is well suited for the classic Berlin songs he undertakes, such as “Blue Skies” or “White Christmas”. His tap dancing is perfectly on par and he shines when performing.

There are several minor changes, and a few more noticeable ones, from the beloved film version. Several songs have been re-orchestrated to make them more lendable for duets. Other Berlin songs, that weren’t in the film, were added while others were cut. The much beloved MALE duet (where Bob and Phil comically impersonate the Haynes Sisters in their own version of ‘Sisters’) is listed in the program, but did not appear on the stage on opening night. Why this crowd-pleasing number was cut is definitely a bewilderment. Thankfully, the racist (and oddly out of place – even for the times) “The Minstrel Show” has been cut from the stage production.

The stage version of White Christmas does exactly what it is supposed to do; it entertains with wonderful Berlin songs and great dances, shows off a talented cast, and allows even the greenest of Grinches to escape into wonderful fluff, frolic and fun.

White Christmas opened on Broadway as a Limited Holiday Presentation, on November 14, 2008, and closed on January 04, 2009. It was nominated for two Tony Awards (Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations). It returned again, for a limited run, on November 13, 2009 – January 03, 2010. The stage musical is based on the Paramount Pictures by the same name. The film version of White Christmas was released in 1954 and starred Bing Crosby (Bob Wallace) and Danny Kaye (Phil Davis), Rosemary Clooney (Betty Haynes) and Vera-Ellen (Judy Haynes), and Mary Wickes as Emma Allen (changed to Martha Watson for the stage).

 

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Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at: http://www.EricAndrewsKatz.com

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