'WHITE CHRISTMAS' at The 5th Avenue Theatre
Once again Irving Berlin's holiday classic "White Christmas" comes off the silver screen and to life on stage. But there's no need to go see the New York production when you can see the 5th Avenue's wonderful production right here in Seattle.
They last produced this three years ago and with a sure fire hit like this, why not bring it back. And a hit it is. This production has not lost any of it's original sparkle over the past few years. But based on the holiday favorite starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, how can you go wrong? The story follows famous crooners Bob Wallace and Phil Davis as they try to help save their old army General's Vermont inn from going under by (what else?) puttin' on a show. Another one of those highly simplistic stories from a highly simplistic time. The biggest plot point is one minor misunderstanding that a few spontaneous musical numbers can't fix. Yes, people burst into song for no reason and never mind how one single piano can sound like a full orchestra. It's the magic of a musical. And magical it is.
The stellar cast never once lets the energy or joy wane. They stay right there with glorious high kicks and that 40's and 50's style to the not so bitter end. And right there with that style are the leads Bob, played by Michael Gruber and Phil played by Greg McCormick Allen who look like they stepped right out of the movie. Especially 5th Avenue regular McCormick Allen who always looks like he was born about a century too late. He just has that look. And it doesn't hurt that he's an incredible talent. But that's OK, just keeping putting him in period shows like "Catch Me If You Can", "Hello, Dolly!" and of course "White Christmas" and you'll do fine. I always love seeing him on stage. And not to be outdone, the ladies Christina Saffran Ashford and Taryn Darr could give Clooney and Ellen a run for their money. Perfectly coiffed and dressed to the nines, they belt out those Berlin tunes like nobody's business. And I especially loved McCormick Allen and Darr's several dance numbers. They both move great and move great together.
Other standouts I must mention are Carol Swarbrick as Martha and Clayton Corzatte as Ezekiel. Swarbrick has perfect comic timing and tone for the character without ever going over the top. And boy can she sing! And Corzatte, well, he just goes to prove the old adage "There are no small parts, just small actors." He's only on a few times but manages to steal ever scene with very little effort. And the rest of the cast are no slouches either. Comprised of the best of the 5th Avenue's usual suspects, they really know how to bring the goods.
With wonderful direction by James A. Rocco and David Armstrong and stunning choreography by Rocco, "White Christmas" isn't the most groundbreaking show you're going to see this Holiday season but it is the one that'll put the biggest smile on your face. It's just a big warm hug from a familiar old friend and it'll leave you humming those oh so familiar tunes all the way home. From beginning to end it's just a wonderful little ball of Holiday Magic. And I do mean, right up to the very end (I'll let you see what I mean for yourself).
And one final note. When you go to see "White Christmas" at the 5th Avenue, you'll also get to see another wonderful bit of sparkly. The 5th Avenue has replaced their vertical Marquee sign they took down in 1977. Thanks to a wonderful donation from Christabel Gough in memory of her father Roger L. Stevens and his colleague and friend, James M Ryan who helped save the 5th Avenue from being torn down, the vertical marquee shines again. And it was unveiled last night prior to the opening of "White Christmas" to make the evening that much more, well, magical. It's a welcome return to Downtown Seattle.
"White Christmas" plays at The 5th Avenue Theatre through December 30th. For tickets or information contact the 5th Avenue box office at 206-625-1900 or visit them online at www.5thavenue.org.
Photo credit: Chris Bennion
Photo credit: David Jeffers