BWW Reviews: Arizona Broadway Theatre's WHITE CHRISTMAS Is A Yuletide Treat
It's Yuletide at Arizona Broadway Theatre, and the musical du jour is the ever-appealing White Christmas, served with all the sugar and spice that has made Irving Berlin's classic a seasonal favorite.
In his directorial/choreographic debut at ABT, Stephen Casey has imbued this production with distinctive style and energy. His ensemble has laced the show's punch with elixirs of song and dance that leave you wanting an encore.
The story is simple enough. It's got the twists and turns that make for good romantic comedy and just the right dash of humanity that uplifts the spirits and gives hope. In 1944, Bob Wallace (Nathan Brian) and Phil Davis (Patrick Graver) are performing for the troops in the European Theater of Operation, and ten years after the opening scene, they're still united in a song-and-dance act that may get them booked on the Ed Sullivan Show. But, don't you know, two skirts in the form of the singing Haynes sisters (Julia Mosby as Betty and Kelly Moran DiConzo as Judy) derail them and they're on their way to a gig at a lodge in Vermont. What a coincidence, but the lodge is owned by their former commander, General Henry Waverly (T.V. Reeves), whose financial management of the inn leaves loads to be desired. In fact, he's on the verge of bankruptcy! Fortunate for him that he's got a highly devoted housekeeper, Martha (Rori Nogee) and precocious granddaughter, Susan (Callista Walker) to keep him in tow ~ and the loyalty of Wallace and Davis that may turn this 1954 Christmas from a tale of red ink to a skyful of white joy.
It is, in the end, the score that makes White Christmas such an enduring and endearing staple. With classics like Sisters, Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep, Blue Skies, I Love A Piano, How Deep Is the Ocean, and, of course, White Christmas, how can an audience not feel like it's in music heaven!
If there is a moment in this production where I rose from my seat and felt grazed by a snow ball it was when Rori Nogee, oozing with personality and oomph and stagecraft, let it all out with Let Me Sing and I'm Happy. Her performance throughout was stellar.
Are there are elements in this production that need work? In my judgment, yes. I would have liked the budding relationship between Bob and Betty to be more convincing, more believable ~ in just the way that Mr. Graver and Ms. DiConzo generated sweet electricity between Phil and Judy. In contrast to Mr. Brian's rich baritone, I wish Mr. Graver had been less pitchy. I wish that Mr. Reeves had shown more texture in the General's character. I wish that the ensemble had come marching down the center aisle in the emotional tribute to "the old man." And I wish that the musical hadn't been written to end with the full company singing I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. White Christmas would have been just the right topping for this treat!
The bottom line, however, is that, in its tradition of consistent quality programming, Arizona Broadway Theatre has delivered another hit!
White Christmas runs through December 28th.
Photo credit to Arizona Broadway Theatre; Grads Photography