Broadway in Chicago presents
Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS the Musical
At Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe
Based on the film written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank
Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives and Paul Blake
Musical direction by John Visser
Directed by Norb Joerder
Thru January 2nd
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes with one intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Back in the good old days, men committed for life… to each other. ‘Doing it for a pal in the army’ was always a certainty. Whether it was seeing the sister act of freckled face Haynes the dogface boy or opening up a Broadway show in a barn, war buddies mated for life. Broadway in Chicago presents the Chicago debut of Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS the Musical, based on the 1954 Paramount Pictures movie starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. When Judy works an angle, the celebrity duo of Wallace and Davis meet showbiz newcomers, the Hayne sisters. It’s love at first dance… for Judy and Phil. For Betty and Bob, it’s going to take a song or three. The foursome heads to Vermont for the holidays. The deserted inn is owned by the guys’ beloved general. When a heat wave threatens a blue Christmas, it’s up to Wallace and Davis to change the forecast. WHITE CHRISTMAS is simply an old-fashion holiday favorite.
Much like the movie, the sentimental story is secondary to the musical numbers. A musical show about putting on a variety show allows for showcasing the best of Irving Berlin. For WHITE CHRISTMAS, it can be summed up with ‘The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing.’ Whether gown swirling ballroom or energetic enthusiastic tap, the choreography (by Randy Skinner) elicits shoulder-swaying seat movement and dance class plans. ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘I Love a Piano’ are bouncy and simplistic tunes that insist the right weather and instrument lead to carefree, happy times. Making it look effortless and highly enjoyable, Shannon M. O’Bryan (Judy) leads the chorus in the snappy and vigorous routines. Her counterpart, Denis Lambert (Phil), adds charming humor to his lively performance. For a song and dance show, the dance is a visual spectacle. The song is a few notes long. Amy Bodnar (Betty) has the rich, sexy Rosemary Clooney vocal style. In the almost perfect ‘Love you Didn’t Do Right by Me,’ Bodnar holds endnotes too long with shaky results. This pattern is repeated with other performers’ solos. Although those moments don’t break the show’s enchantment, it lends itself to the show’s subplot of ‘putting up a Christmas show in five days.’ Being delightfully memorable, a wise-cracking Ruth Williamson and a precocious Mary Peeples try to break into showbiz through the barn door.
The story is basic. The relationship drama is trite. Despite that, I still watch the movie every season! It’s like unwrapping a gift card as a present. I know exactly what I’m getting. Seeing WHITE CHRISTMAS as a live stage production is like a childhood friend taking you shopping with a gift card. It’s personal, familiar and you still know exactly what you’re getting. WHITE CHRISTMAS is a merry auld lang syne sprinkled with snow. The magical melodies and movement will have you dancing out to the sidewalks and into your holidays!
Driving two hours in from Indiana, mom describes it with “fabulous snowy fun.”