BWW Review: FAC's Dream of a WHITE CHRISTMAS
Christmas is tailor-made for nostalgia--all those ornaments passed down through the years, all those familiar songs and television specials--and it doesn't get more nostalgic than White Christmas, a show that calls up memories not only of the timeless Irving Berlin song and the 1954 film built around it but of old-fashioned musicals in general, down to the "let's put on a show in the old barn" angle. The production now playing at the Fine Arts Center embraces that nostalgia from the first sing-along of the title standard, and the holiday crowd was quite content to be carried along with the sentiment.
As is often the case in classic musical comedy, the story of the dual romances between song-and-dance team Bob Wallace (Matt Gibson) and Phil Davis (Zachary Seliquini Guzman) and sister act Betty (Mackenzie Sherburne) and Judy (Alannah Vaughn) is a thin one, with the usual assortment of contrivances and misunderstandings, but it's buoyed up by the delightful score drawn from the Irving Berlin catalog and the stellar production. The star of the evening is Mary Ripper Baker's choreography; to paraphrase one of the songs (danced beautifully by Guzman and Vaughn) the best things in White Christmas happen while it's dancing. The ensemble brings a jolt every time they come onstage, particularly in the closing of the first act (a delightfully jazzy "Blue Skies") and the opening of the second (the tap-happy "I Love a Piano"). So delightful are the production numbers that the downtime between them feels a bit slow, but the cast manages to keep things humming.
The four leads are solid musically and dramticaly--particularly Gibson's classy, honey-smooth voice, so well-suited to Berlin's standards--but the biggest joys of the evening emerge from the supporting cast. Jen Lennon nabs some big laughs as the brassy, ex-performer concierge at the Vermont inn owned by Bob and Phil's former general (Mark Rubald, a tough but lovable old bird), as does Ella Levy (alternating performances with Lena Olson) as the general's precocious granddaughter. Mike Miller scores a brief but memorable turn as Ezekiel Foster, an unhurried jack-of-all-trades that has elevated New England laconicism to a fine art.
Glittery and cozy by turns, White Christmas is a fine, familiar show that continues the FAC's string of excellent holiday productions. WHITE CHRISTMAS plays now through January 3rd at the Fine Arts Center, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 (except December 24th, at 12pm), with additional performances December 22nd, 23rd, and 27th at 7:30, and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. There is no performance on Christmas Day. For tickets, contact the box office at 719-634-5581 or visit csfineartscenter.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Kearney