BWW Reviews: One More Weekend to Catch the Norris Theatre's Sparkling WHITE CHRISTMAS
White Christmas, always a treat on film (1954), creates a unique and refreshing glow on stage. The touring and original Broadway productions, which played Los Angeles only once at the Pantages, in 2005 were gloriously directed by Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Randy Skinner, who turned the second act opener "I Love a Piano" into one of the most inventive & lively tap sequences ever. Now on stage at the Norris Theatre in Palos Verdes the local company has created a fresh sparkling production with even direction from Randy Brenner and zestful tap choreography from Kami Seymour. The sturdy acting company makes this production a pleasantly frothy confection playing through December 15 only - sadly, you only have one more weekend to catch it, so get your tickets immediately!
Brent Schindele (Bob Wallace), David Lamoureux (Phil Davis), Gail Bennett (Betty Haynes) and Tro Shaw (Judy Haynes) deliver bright energized performances and with Kevin Paul (Sheldrake), Michael Prohaska (General Henry Waverly), a deliciously comedic Polly Seale (Martha Watson), who is without a doubt one of the funniest Marthas so far... and Asheley Jewel Reynolds (Susie) offering steady support, the ensemble is top-notch. Lamoureux is such a talent that he smoothly transitions from his usual gig as musical conductor in the South Bay area to triple threat performer. With such musical knowledge, ability and savy, he can do it all. Praise as well to Jane Papageorge and Nicole Manly as the silly laugh.at.anything dancers Rita and Rhoda and to Karl Jaecke hilarious as the easy-going almost zombied janitor Ezekiel. Also Michael Starr as stage manager Mike is just great, as he sustains a hilariously consistent manic state throughout.
Irving Berlin's standards are some of the best songs ever written, and the show contains many not used in the film. The stage score includes: "Sisters", "Happy Holiday", "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy", "Count Your Blessings", "Blue Skies", "How Deep Is the Ocean", "I've Got My Love to Keep me Warm" and of course, "I Love a Piano" and the title tune. Ives' and Blake's book stays faithful to the original film story, and although thin on plot, corny and sentimental, it's one of the most heartwarming pieces of fluff in existence. And youngsters are going to see it, so, irregardless of what they think or say, its legacy lives on. Bravo! Seymour offers delightful choreography on "...Piano", but even pared down from what I saw originally, it has its own special zing. Uncredited scenic design and costumes possess a simple elegance.
Don't miss this lovely White Christmas now on stage through December 15 only! For me, who grew up a tried and true New Englander, Christmas is just not the same without White Christmas. It's a yearly event for my regimen; as a friend said, "You've become a White Christmas groupie".
Sidenote: This is the second year that this production has played the Norris Center and my second time seeing it. A few cast changes occurred - the ensemble are mostly new - but the principals pretty much the same with the exception of sweet little Ashley Reynolds as Susan Waverly. Randy Brenner and Kami Seymour have made it even better this time around, adding subtle changes with exits and musical staging, and it all works to make this production simply terrific. Don't miss it!