Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 17, 2010

Irving Berlin's White Christmas

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through November 21, 2010
by R.E. Smith

Hey kids, let's put on a Christmas show!  Those familiar with the classic movie "White Christmas" with recognize the story and those who haven't seen the film will still recognize the plot.  Bob Wallace and Phil Davis are a successful song and dance team in 1954.  With romance in the air, they find themselves putting on a show in the barn of an inn owned by their former commanding officer.  They've followed the lovely and talented sister act, Betty and Judy Haynes, to Vermont for some romantic entanglements and snappy tap dance numbers.

But calling "White Christmas" a Christmas show is like calling "Meet Me in St. Louis" an Easter show. The score is a showcase for some of the best of Irving Berlin.  There are memorable tunes throughout, including  "Count Your Blessings," "How Deep is the Ocean" and "Sisters." Act One ends with a full out production number set to "Blue Skies" that would do Busby Berkley proud. The ensemble exhibits some first rate hoofing.

One role expanded upon from the film is that of busybody housekeeper Martha.  This affords the opportunity for Ruth Williamson to let loose, in grand show-biz style, on the song "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy".  As Betty and Joan Haynes, Amy Bodnar and Shannon M. O'Bryan are top notch. Their strong voices, impressive dance skills and snappy delivery appropriately recalled the starlets of the '50's.  

The sets are beautiful, shifting from the intimate lobby of the Inn to the soaring windows of the Regency Room in NYC.  In the fine old tradition, there are some colorful and massive backdrops used as well.  It's a simple device that is quite effective when showcasing big song and dance numbers like "I Love a Piano".  Even the Bushnell itself was "costumed" for the occasion, with snowflake projections spilling over the building and even across the street.

Even if one is not ready to start decking the halls or roasting chestnuts, "White Christmas" is still a terrific way to relive the glory days of movie musicals and the infectious melodies of Irving Berlin.