Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin, Book by David Ives and Paul Blake

Dates and Venue 4 December 2010 - 2 January 2011 | Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

This year's production of White Christmas confirms that The Arts Club Theatre deservedly ranks at the top of theatrical companies in terms of its flair for finessing that good old homespun heartfelt Hollywood razzle-dazzle. Nostalgia buffs will take great satisfaction in the impeccable taste of Ms. Sheila White, whose costume design work is as spectacular a part of White Christmas as are the variety of colourful and visually dynamic sets designed with care and precision by Alison Green. Director Bill Millerd is to be commended for having synergized such a formidable cast and crew.

The play opens in 1944 near the end of the war, the two male leads sing a tribute to their General, The Old Man. But, the first act as a whole seems to move a little slower than the second act, except for a few memorable musical numbers. Monique Lund as Judy Haynes and Sara-Jeanne Hosie as Betty Haynes exhibit fine form in their show-stopper Sisters. Soon they are bound for Vermont with the two male leads, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, played by Jeffrey Victor and Todd Talbot, respectively. Just prior to that there was an almost out-of-body-experience sensation evoked by Monique Lund and Todd Talbot in their performance of The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing. Snow, one of the shows more amusing songs, is sung by the four leads and the ensemble cast in front of a Vermont train station. The Vermont hotel they end up at turns out to be the failing property of none other than their old General, Henry Waverly played gruffly with bluster and leathery varnish by Allan Gray.

White Christmas has much to recommend it. Among the most heart-warming songs is Count Your Blessings. Jeffrey Lund sings this cute lullaby to the winsome young Rachael Withers, who is every bit the precocious ingenue as the General's grand-daughter. Withers has a small but significant part and later in the show reprises a slightly attenuated version of Let Me Sing and I'm Happy, the song Susan Anderson does so admirably well earlier on in the second act.

Another reprise performance, one that brought laughter to the house was the 'boys' version of Sisters performed with robust enthusiasm and an elan that eventually brought an uncomfortable 'as you were, soldiers' from General Waverly, after he walked in on the performance. Part of the humour of this musical rests in the uneasy balance between the General's stodginess and the staging germane to the song and dance performance orchestrated by the four leads, which is needed to save his failing hotel.

Along the way, come numerous deft dances, warm-hearted dialogue that is as much a throwback to the fifties as all those songs, like Blue Skies and Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me. White Christmas reminds us that Christmas is a time for giving, along with the accompaniment of a consummate seven-piece band, and with performers whose tap-dancing fervour and vocal flourish is characteristic of excellent musical entertainment. If you've been dreaming of a white Christmas, one of the best ways to realize those dreams is by taking in this show at the Stanley. Merry Christmas.

© 2010 Roger Wayne Eberle