Review: WHITE CHRISTMAS is a Heartwarming Delight at City Springs Theatre Company

Onstage at the Byers Theatre through December 24, 2023!

By: Dec. 10, 2023
Review: WHITE CHRISTMAS is a Heartwarming Delight at City Springs Theatre Company

City Springs Theatre Company has returned in its sixth season to ring in the holidays with WHITE CHRISTMAS, directed and choreographed by Sara Edwards. It’s the most perfect selection for the holiday season.

WHITE CHRISTMAS was adapted for the stage in 2000 as a regional production in St. Louis, but has been credited with its origin in San Francisco in 2004. It was adapted from the 1954 film. The original film was created from the starting point of Irving Berlin’s infamous song of the same title. Irving Berlin also wrote the additional songs created for the movie.The script originated from Norman Krasna, but was largely rewritten by Mel Frank and Norman Panama. The stage adaptation has attributed its book to David Ives and Paul Blake.

No detail of CSTC’s production of WHITE CHRISTMAS went unnoticed. From carolers when you walk in the door to the rhinestone tights the ladies were wearing in “Blue Skies” at the end of Act I to the lighting designs on the ground at various points in the production. (Lighting courtesy of Mike Wood; original costume design from Carrie Robbins, coordinated for CSTC by Russ Williamson)

Was there anything groundbreaking or different about this musical or this production in particular? No. Was it entirely wholesome and a fantastic selection for the holiday season? Absolutely. They just don’t make theatre like WHITE CHRISTMAS anymore. 

Review: WHITE CHRISTMAS is a Heartwarming Delight at City Springs Theatre Company

We’re first introduced to Bob Wallace (Kyle Robert Carter), Phil Davis (Julio Rey), and Ralph Sheldrake (Michael Stiggers Jr.) putting on a production for the Army’s 151st in 1944. Fast forward to the next song, and Bob and Phil are now a popular duo, commonly on The Ed Sullivan Show, produced by Sheldrake. They’re on their way to Miami for a “million dollar proposition” when they take a detour to see the Haynes Sisters, Betty (Kate Fahrner) and Judy (Scarlett Walker), in their new show. Phil and Judy step quickly into cahoots to detour the gentlemen to Vermont as a way to spend more time together.

Both Bob and Betty feel betrayed, but fall into the kind of love that only happens in musicals (an entire love story in a single song, “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)”). In an effort to save the inn coincidentally owned by their Army leader, General Henry Waverly (Brian Kurlander), Bob and Phil route their entire show cast to Vermont for a special, one-night-only show. The show ends, of course, with a complete cast version of none other than “White Christmas”.

While Bob and Betty are designed to be the “stars” of the production (and Carter and Fahrner were incredible), I could not get enough of Julio Rey and Scarlett Walker. You don’t often see leads in more modern musicals do full dance numbers after or during a big song. Rey and Walker were just as talented on their feet as they were with their voices. That kind of talent doesn’t come along every day.

To this point, Sara Edwards excelled with the direction of this production, but even more so with her choreography. There were actual tap shoes worn by actual dancers in WHITE CHRISTMAS. Most stage actors and actresses have some extent of dance experience, but you can’t fake the talent the entire cast had when it came to dancing (especially tap dancing)! As a former dancer, I was blown away by the choreography. 

Kyle Robert Carter was the perfect level of crooner that was so unique to the performers of the 1950s (Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, etc). He had a big heart and an even bigger voice. He’s perfectly juxtaposed with Kate Fahrner’s feminine strength. Their duets were both powerful and lovable.

Every character contributed something to the show. Martha Watson (Beth Beyer) is the strong, goofy woman standing beside just about every successful man. General Henry Waverly (Brian Kurlander) brought tears to your eyes as he reflected on his time in the military and the kind of man he wishes to be today. Rita (Sarah Gold) and Rhoda (Maggie McCown) even brought a little bit of light to their quips between scenes. You could even see the different levels and dynamics between the ensemble characters and the backstories they had been given.

The biggest enigma of the show? Ezekiel Foster (Googie Uterhardt). In my research, the role has existed in the film and the musical as the caretaker of the in. A man of “simple means”. He provided some not unwelcome comic bits to the production, but overall felt a bit strange with the rest of the show. 

I would be remiss if I made it through this review without a special mention for Gigi McClenning as Susan Waverly. I had the opportunity to be seated near a few City Springs Theatre employees, and it was amazing to see their joy as McClenning had her moment on stage. Trust me, you can’t miss it. 

All of this was complemented by Anna Louizos’s set design. Some scenes were designed with a smaller footprint, like the dressing rooms toward the beginning of the show or the phone call scene that causes all the confusion, as more of a vignette style. However, that did not stop other sets, like the inn, the barn, or the closing snow scene, from being larger than life and consuming the entire stage.

Review: WHITE CHRISTMAS is a Heartwarming Delight at City Springs Theatre Company

On the whole, WHITE CHRISTMAS is a standout production from City Springs Theatre Company. No tricks or gimmicks. Nothing flashy. Just a heartwarming show performed beautifully. Grab your kids, your parents, your grandparents, your neighbors, and go see WHITE CHRISTMAS.

WHITE CHRISTMAS is at The Byers Theatre through December 24. For more information and to get tickets, head to www.CitySpringsTheatre.com.




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