Peggy Sue Dunigan

White Christmas

By - Nov 28th, 2007 02:52 pm
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Snow fell several times, including over the audience, during The Skylight’s seasonal production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas Saturday night. The perennial favorite – which opened to a dusting of real snow in the city on Thanksgiving weekend – is filled with the Irving Berlin songs that made and continue to make memories during the holidays. This story surrounds two army veterans who become Broadway stars and rescue their old general’s failing Vermont ski inn. Along the way, the friends find romance with a pair of entertaining sisters and create a few surprises in this adapted musical setting.

With well-known Milwaukee musical director Richard Carsey and choreographer Pam Kriger at helm, the classic 1954 film comes to life on the Cabot Stage. The score provides plenty of song and dance numbers the audience will enthusiastically enjoy, including less-remembered melodies like “I Love a Piano” and “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun.”

While reenacting the legendary performances of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney might be intimidating, the lead performers carry these roles with a chemistry that builds throughout the first scenes. Norman Moses as Bill Wallace and Branch Woodman as Phil Davis are at ease with these iconic characters, and the delightful dancing of Rebekah Jacobs as Judy Haynes along with the outstanding voice of Melinda Pfundstein as Betty Haynes gives enduring charm to such ever-familiar numbers as “Sisters, Sisters.”

This multi-talented team is surrounded by a handsome, capable cast (with innovative performances by Brianna Zawada as the young granddaughter Susan and Rhonda Rae Busch as concierge Martha Watson) and supported with live orchestrations and sparkling 50’s costumes. Inside the Columbia Inn, during the final scene, the cast, cloaked in red velvet and snow-white fur, sings the title song – one of the most popular lyrics in the history of music – and glides the audience into the Christmas season.

Giving emotional weight to the storyline, White Christmas is dedicated to several important Milwaukee theater personnel who passed away this year, including Montgomery Davis and Skylight costume designer Jeffrey Olson. Berlin’s tribute to family, friendship, and dreams of home over the holidays is heartwarming entertainment, evoking the simple longing and joy of being with loved ones in less complicated times and reminding is that loving and being loved are the best gifts to give in celebration of the season. VS

White Christmas plays at the Cabot Theatre through December 31. Tickets are available by calling 414-291-7800, or visit skylightopera.com.

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