BWW Review: WHITE CHRISTMAS at Sarasota High School Kicks off the Holiday Season
Sarasota High School produced a heart-warming rendition of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" this past week. The show which is full of laughter, was engaging and entertaining, and another shining example of the incredible theatre productions our local schools produce.
"White Christmas" is a musical based on the Paramount Pictures 1954 film of the same name. With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and book is by David Ives and Paul Blake, this story follows Captain Bob Wallace and Private First-Class Phil Davis begin a song-and-dance act after World War II. As with many musicals, love gets the best of our characters and they end up following the beautiful Haynes sisters to Vermont. From there the drama and laughter unfold as the characters find their way to success and happiness.
Director Lacey Knispel assembled an incredibly talented cast who demonstrated both a vocal and an acting strength that has become prevalent in our artistic community. The entire cast displayed a cohesiveness and an energy that was critical in bringing the story to life.
Most of the roles were double cast, which is obviously another sign of the array of talent that permeates this program. On this night Edgar Sanchez portrayed Captain Bob Wallace. Sanchez displayed a calmness throughout his role while at the same time leaving no doubt of his rank from his time in the service. He was consistent as he navigated his way through several musical numbers. Any slight vocal challenges were quickly dismissed by his presence on stage and the passion with which he presented his character.
The role of Phil Davis was played by Cameron Cabral. Cabral displayed a flare for the stage with his quick wit and timely facial expressions. His vocals were strong the entire show and his ability to compliment Sanchez in their acting scenes helped to enhance both characters. Cabral displayed a natural comfort with his onstage love interest Judy Haynes (Merrill Garlington) which offered the audience further insight into the complexity of the character he was playing.
Betty Haynes played by Kasey Morgan provided the audience with a powerhouse voice that provided more than one thunderous applause during the show. Haynes was masterful as she correctly portrayed a stoic yet often insecure character. Morgan had complete control of the stage each time we saw her, and she had a presence that screamed that she was born for the stage. I would have liked to have seen a deeper chemistry between her and Sanchez, but I have no doubt as these talented performers continue to develop their craft that this skill will naturally occur.
Merrill Garlington (Judy Haynes) was equally as charming and offered a nice contrast in character to Betty. Garlington was graceful and poised as Phil's girlfriend. She displayed a strong presence when Phil demonstrated his womanizing ways and at the same time showed her genuine desire to love and be loved.
Martha Watson portrayed by Ivy Morton (who was also one of the student directors) was masterful in her interactions with the all of the characters who inhabited the Inn where she worked. Watson was fantastic vocally and I was impressed with her ability to engage every cast member she interacted with during the production.
Of special note, Anja Schwartzbauer who played the young child, Susan Waverly was simply fantastic. She was electric on stage and brought the entire energy of the show to a new level in every scene she was on stage. I thought her acting choices were perfect and offered key moments of humor which greatly enhanced the show. Her character really needed a microphone so her beautiful voice could be more clearly heard, however; like a young professional she projected every word and brought life to a character that could easily be overlooked.
The General (Colton Root), Ezekial (Jason Kanter) and Mickey (Arianna Monserrate) all delivered fantastic supporting performances and were a vibrant compliment to the rest of the cast. I also made a point to look on the cast picture board to be sure to mention Hannah Yax from the Ensemble. The Ensemble while often unnoticed is critical to the success of this show. Yax was on point in every scene and her smile and ability to engage her audience will surely offer her many opportunities in the future.
While the story itself was slow at times, the cast brought an excitement and an energy that kept you involved in the story from beginning to end. I feel like this group would benefit from doing a show that offers them more complexity in their choreography. I am not sure if it was the style itself or just the nature of the show, but I found myself wanting more and I am confident this group would be up for that challenge.
Youth theatre is a training ground and Sarasota High School is doing its part in offering quality musical performance opportunities to its students. "White Christmas" was a great way to kick off the holiday season and a great reminder of the incredible talent in our community.