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Center Stage: Happy Holiday Season

December 3, 2011
Marsha Wagner , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The Happy Holiday Season has just been launched with the 138th Broadway Palm production of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." This stage version of the 1954 heartwarming film is a sure fire hit that is the plus perfect vehicle to kick off Christmas time. Based on the 1940s film "Holiday Inn" starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye the plot line though paper thin, is nevertheless an ideal means for presenting the 15 solid gold Irving Berlin hit tunes.

Choreographer/ Director Ann Neiman spikes this holiday concoction with not only flash and dash dance routines, her musical staging is right on the money, as is the rapid paced delivery of the comedy contained in the plot. Now mix in razzle dazzle costumes by John P. White, whisk us away with Evan Anderson's vibrant Christmas card Sets ranging from a lush N.Y.C. nightclub scene to a cozy inn and barn in Vermont and you have a holiday punch that is a just the thing to delight the all the senses; enough to put us in a holiday state of mind

The plot set in 1954 follows the antics of two exGI's- Bob Wallace (Ryan William Bailey), and Phil Davis (John Ramsey)now, turned into successful showbiz partners, song and dance men, pursuing a couple of singing sisters- Judy Hayes (Lisa LeCuyer) and Betty Hayes (Kara Farmer) to their latest gig at a Vermont inn. When they discover the inn is nearly bankrupt, the guys and gals set out to boost its popularity, since it is currently being run by an old army buddy, their beloved former Commander General Henry Waverly (Michael Weaver). The foursome, decide to put on big musical Christmas holiday show; save the inn and General Henry.

The plot thin as it is has its main conflict coming from a misunderstanding; still the show has lots of heart--- a sort of, "let's put on a big show in the barn for General Henry". There is a nice healthy balance of humor, romance, drama and fun, a rather good mix for the emotions and values contained in this season of "good will to men". Bottom line, this narrative like most Christmas baubles is rather delicate and fragile, with just enough story line to intermingle the wonderful Berlin songs.

No doubt about it the Berlin score is outstanding and in this stage version most of the songs are from the movie, including: "Sisters", Count Your Blessings", "Snow", and of course the title tune "White Christmas". What's been added, are some other standards: "Blue Skies", "Let Yourself Go", "I Love a Piano", How Deep Is the Ocean", plus a bunch of other Berlin melodies that also weren't in the movie. These great tunes aside from the fine cast, swell dancing, holiday card inspired sets and costumes are what make "White Christmas" such a classic, holiday favorite.

Granted that the score is outstanding but let's give credit where credit is due, and that is the fine cast. Ryan William Bailey as ex-GI Bob Wallace, has a strong take on his character as well as a good stage presence along with a mellow, smooth vocal, crooning styled delivery, exactly right for this Berlin score. Kara Josephson as Betty (the Rosemary Clooney movie character) conveyed a strong but likeable stubborn streak which this role requires; her singing displayed the same strength with a touch of charming mellowness. Lisa LeCyuyer (Judy) and John Ramsey( ex-GI Phil Davis) were ideal as the other couple, especially with their impressive vocal deliveries, fleet footed dancing and delightfully brisk comedy readings throughout. Their right on rendition of, "I Love a Piano" really knocked it out of the park and stopped the show.

Martha Watson was played to the hilt by Pauline Cobrda, as she belted "Let Me Sing and I'll Be Happy" to the barn rafters she scored big time, furthermore Cobrda showed off her sassy comic side, making her an ideal sparring partner for the gruff-guy-with a heart of gold General Henry Waverly well portrayed by actor/singer Michael Weaver.

Others in the cast that deserve honorable mention are high energy actor/dancer Jayar Garcia as Ralph Sheldrake. Mighty mite youngster Jessica Daniels (Susan Waverly, the General's niece) took center stage and socked it to us, with her singing , "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy".

The best support framing this wonderful production comes from the terrific ensemble cast of singers and dancers, all of them giving it their all, whether dancing, tapping, or singing up a storm, getting a well deserved blizzard of applause from the delighted audience.

Director/Choreographer Neiman has pulled out all the stops by putting this amazing cast to good use and making everyone look great, whether singing, dancing or acting, in this razzle dazzle Christmas offering.

Broadway Palm Dinner Theater has done it again in putting together one of the best produced winning holiday shows in our area, thus creating an enchanted evening of musical entertainment exactly right for putting everyone in a holiday mood.

Take my advice make your reservations Now!!! This holiday show will sell out fast since it only plays till December 25th. Pick up that phone and call the Box Office 278-4422 to save your spot for a having merry mirth filled time, by viewing and enjoying "White Christmas" at The Broadway Palm Dinner Theater. When you phone remind 'em Marsha sent you. Meanwhile: as Santa would say : " a merry Christmas to ya'll and to all a good night."

 
 

 

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