White Christmas: The Musical
Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, book by David Ives and Paul Blake

Dates and Venue 12 November – 27 December 2009, Tues 7:30pm, Wed –Sat 8pm, Matinees Wed, Sat, and Sun 2pm | Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Despite the blizzard on opening night, the theatre was filled to the rafters, and Bill Millerd in his introduction was pleasantly surprised at the attendance. Another standing ovation at the end of the show, and as though the cast expected it, another number, perhaps an intentional encore, ended this 2.45 hour production.

"Make your days merry and bright", that verse we hear sung every Christmas as we listen to an old record of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas", this classic song based on the 1950s holiday film with the same title that's replayed every Christmas on TV channels around the world. And now, a musical which premiered in San Francisco in 2004 has been recreated. At one time, movies were based on musicals, but these days, the opposite is taking place. In fact, the other Arts Club production coming up, "It's a Wonderful Life", is another play based on the 1940s movie starring Jimmy Stewart.

This unforgettable movie, and now a musical, is about love and friendship. The stage adaptation has added more Irving Berlin favourites and more tap-dancing delighting us with such popular Berlin tunes as “Blue Skies,” “I Love a Piano,” and the ever-popular “White Christmas”, as we sang along with the cast.

Stanley Theatre is one of those buildings constructed in the 1930s and as I watched this production, it was like sitting in one of those theatres when I was a child and watching variety shows. This production just fit into that ambience. Even the old-fashioned musical style of the production reflects the way musicals were done in the good ol' days.

With regard to the cast, I can't help but compare the actors in the film version to those who played their roles in this show. Rosemary Clooney played Betty Haynes in the film, and I felt that Monique Lund would have fit the role better, instead of Sara-Jeanne Hosie who, I felt, should have played Judy Haynes instead. Jeffrey Victor was not really as sophisticated as Bing Crosby and didn't have that voice, but he somewhat managed. Todd Talbot as Phil Davis was not at all as comic as Danny Kaye. But who can ever replace Danny Kaye?

But hats off to the choreographer, Valerie Easton, and the ensemble. Every time a tap dance ended, the audience was cheering. I was also delighted with the orchestra, especially Tom Colclough on Clarinet/Saxophone.

This is indeed the perfect show to watch this holiday season. Perhaps Arts Club should continue doing this show every year during the Christmas holidays but with different actors, the same way they're doing with "It's a Wonderful Life" which is now in its third year.

© 2009 Ed Farolan