BWW Review: IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS - THE MUSICAL at The Cadillac Palace Theatre
Every year, a group of my friends and I go to The Music Box Theatre here in Chicago for our annual viewing of White Christmas. It's a perfect way to ring in the holidays with a mix of sentimentality and tradition.
This holiday season, theatre audiences can experience the stage version of this 1954 classic. Irving Berlin'S WHITE CHRISTMAS - THE MUSICAL, in a new production by Work Light Productions, is now playing at The Cadillac Palace Theatre. While the musical is based on the movie, there are a few changes sure to be noticed by die-hard fans.
The story follows Bob Wallace (Sean Montgomery) and Phil Davis (Jeremy Benton), World War II army buddies who become successful entertainers and producers. After seeing their army pal's sisters, Betty Haynes (Kerry Conte) and Judy Haynes (Kelly Sheehan) do their act, Davis tricks Wallace into following the duo to Vermont. The Haynes sisters are set to perform at an inn there for holidays.
When they arrive, Davis and Wallace find out the inn is run by their former commanding officer, General Waverly (Conrad John Schuck). Because of the unusually warm weather, the inn faces a sluggish season and is already struggling to stay afloat. Even the General's right-hand lady, Martha Watson, (played with zest by Tony Winner, Karen Ziemba) can't hide the bills long enough. Nor can she keep the secret of the difficulties from Wallace and Davis.
The pair teams up to save the inn by bringing in a big holiday show and surprising their old boss with their former army company in attendance. Meanwhile, we watch as miscommunication leads to a rough road to love for Bob and Betty. Phil and Judy do their best to ensure the two end up together.
Part of the film's charm comes from the humor and sitcom-like situations that lead everyone to Vermont, New York, in and out of love, and back again. Some of that is lacking in the stage version, where the story steams ahead with little tension and not always enough heart and humor. However, the stage version excels in the song and dance numbers that are full of high energy and dazzling choreography. In particular, Act Two's opening number, I Love a Piano, is a tap dancing dream that showcases the stellar talent of Benton, Sheehan, and the wonderful ensemble.
Fans of the movie will enjoy hearing the songs they love including Sisters, The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing, Snow, Count Your Blessings, and of course, White Christmas. Each one evokes fond Christmas memories and are tunes that you will hum as you leave. Ziemba's rendition of Let Me Sing And I'm Happy is the perfect chance to see the Broadway veteran in fine form. Schuck's moving monologue near the end of the show is quite touching and delivered with genuine heart.
Director and choreographer, Randy Skinner, has done a nice job of bringing the era to life. Beautifully designed by Anna Louizos (Sets), Carrie Robbins (Costumes) and Ken Billington (Lighting), each scene is a picture postcard of the holiday season.
As the snow falls at the end of Irving Berlin'S WHITE CHRISTMAS - THE MUSICAL, you're likely to find a smile on your face as you sing along with the cast. And you will probably be dreaming of a white Christmas. Just like the ones you used to know.
Irving Berlin'S WHITE CHRISTMAS - THE MUSICAL runs through December 3 at The Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph. Tickets are $18-$100 at all Broadway in Chicago box offices (24 W. Randolph, 151 W. Randolph, 18 W. Monroe and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway in Chicago ticket line at (800) 775-2000 and online at www.BroadwayinChicago.com.