Christmas season has begun at the Fox Theatre with Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. This fun-filled nostalgic delight is a great way to get psyched for the holidays and enjoy an evening at the Theatre of the Stars. The production stars John Scherer and Denis Lambert as the performers-turned-producers duo Bob Wallace and Phil Davis. Supporting them is the fictional up-and-coming sister act of Betty and Judy Haynes, performed by Amy Bodnar and Shannon O’Bryan, as well as the retired General Waverly, performed by Erick Devine. Gianna LePera and Mary Peeples deserve special mention for their shared role (they take turns with the role from night to night), as Susan Waverly the general’s charming and adorable niece who has her share of stage-stealing moments.
White Christmas provides a very traditional musical theatre experience that theatergoers have come to expect. The music isn’t especially different, the characters aren’t exceedingly complex, and the story is rather predicable, yet the combination of everything makes for a good show. The musical is all about fun and energy throughout, and along the way the scattered scenes of dialogue have a lot of heart. The dancing in White Christmas is especially spectacular. There is a lot of dancing in this show, almost more than there is music. It is clear that this cast was chosen for their tap-dancing strength above all else. While the voices don’t always blend perfectly, the visual energy of the stage is constantly engaging and more or less carries the show.
The style of dance and costumes effectively captures the 1950s setting and awakens the nostalgia of a world recovering from World War II. The focus of the story on a pair of entertainers makes sense in this context, serving the need of the world to find escape from the lingering effects of a war. The musical itself has a similar effect in its own delivery: it focuses on being light-hearted and silly and only slightly touches on the more dramatic issues. Such an approach makes White Christmas a perfect distraction for anyone seeking a brief escape from the pressures of everyday life.
Fans of the original White Christmas movie will be pleased as well. The songs from the movie are in the musical version plus more. Not everything is exactly the same, however, so there is plenty of interesting variety to look forward to. John Scherer is no Bing Crosby, but he brings a fresh interpretation of the role that is strong and consistent. There are also new jokes and memorable scenes that may not occur how (or even when) those familiar with the movie might expect them.
Overall, this production of White Christmas is a fun experience, even if a bit light and cheesy. The show is worthwhile for the dancing alone, and any good acting, music, or comedy it contains are just added bonuses to the overall entertainment. White Christmas sets the mood for a cheerful winter, filling the void of the snowless Christmas that Georgia often endures. Remaining performances are this Friday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. and 8:00 PM, and Sunday, Oct. 7 at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.