BWW Reviews: IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS at the Engeman
Irving Berlin's White Christmas is just the thing to get you into the holiday spirit. Besides a heartfelt story, the beautiful John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport also went all out for an early kickoff to the holiday season. Donning their lobby with Christmas decorations and playing classic Christmas carols over the loud speaker as you entered the theater, you knew right away you were in for a wonderful holiday treat.
The story, set in the years 1944-1954, follows two army and showbiz buddies, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, as they prepare to put on a show in a scenic Vermont resort. The results are two-fold as they end up finding love in addition to generously helping out their General - the resort owner - that has hit a rough patch.
Aaron Ramey portrays Bob Wallace who seems to be a long time cynic about romance. Mr. Ramey's performance was enjoyable - great voice - but he seemed disconnected from the audience a few times. It was as if he was concentrating too much on what was next. His was a fine performance overall, though.
There's great teamwork between Ramey and Drew Humphrey's Phil Davis. Phil is a skirt chaser and arranged, unbeknownst to Bob, to go up to this picturesque Vermont resort to put on their show. With a wonderful voice, he also did several rousing tap performances (Mr. Humphrey's also serves as the show's choreographer). A favorite amongst the sold out audience was his performance and tap routine with Darien Crago, who portrayed Judy Haynes, in "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me/How Deep Is The Ocean".
Ms. Crago was a highlight of the cast as Judy who, with her sister Betty, portrayed wonderfully by Kennedy Caughell, are also a vaudeville team. They are also the ones Bob and Phil travel with to Vermont. Another audience favorite was their adorable rendition of "Sisters" and both women had stunning throwback styles to them.
Most of the funny moments came from Kathryn Kendall who hilariously portrayed Martha Watson. Martha is General Waverly's (Drew Taylor) loyal and wisecracking resort manager. She received roars of laughter for her zingers like "You can shove it up your vacuum cleaner and turn it on high!!" Additionally, Martha helps looked after the General's grand-daughter, Susan, endearingly portrayed by Katie Dolce who alternates the role with Claire Levasseur. I could have pictured Susan being a touch sassier, but Katie did a wonderful job in the role.
Kudos also to the rest of the top notch cast and the amazing orchestra led by musical director James Olmstead. The full band comprised of Mark Gatz, Joe Boardman, Brent Chiarello, Frank Hall, Russell Brown, and Josh Endlich. They seamlessly and skillfully went through the show's numbers with panache'. Moreover, people were talking, and rightfully so, about Ryan J. Moller's beautiful costumes and Jonathan Collin's well thought out set.
And so the John W. Engeman indeed has another hit with Irving Berlin's White Christmas. It is a fun and fluffy show that will surely make you smile. With a wonderful cast and beautiful score, this will make for a great holiday night at the theatre.
Irving Berlin's White Christmas is presented by the John W. Engeman Thatre of Northport, Long Island through January 5th. Directed by Mark Adam Rampmeyer, Scenic Design by Jonathan Collins, Costume Design by Ryan J. Moller, Lighting Design by Wilburn Bonnell, Sound Design by Craig Kaufman, Hair & Make-Up by Brandalyn Fulton, Casting by Stephen DeAngelis, Music Direction by James Olmstead, Choreography by Drew Humphrey, Stage Management by Michelle Lynn Hines. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (631) 261-2900 or visit engemantheater.com.