THEATRE REVIEW: “WHITE CHRISTMAS”

It will be snowing in Jacksonville, Florida through December 24, as the Alhambra Theatre at 12000 Beach Boulevard presents Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” The musical debuted in 2004 and is already a classic; a must-see-it on everyone’s holiday calendar. The musical is based on a 1954 film of the same name, and its 1942 predecessor, “Holiday Inn.” Both were musicals with songs written by Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby.

The Alhambra Theatre did “White Christmas” in 2012, and it was a smash hit, with sold-out performances. The 2014 version, which opened on November 26, has also been a hit at the box office, with all the initially scheduled performances sold out. Ah, but opportunities do remain for you to enjoy this musical with friends and family. The Alhambra has added matinee performances to Wednesdays in December, for which tickets are currently available. Additionally, you can request waiting list placement for sold-out performances.

The current production is as fine as the previous one, with six members of that cast joining fourteen new faces, all expertly directed by Producer/Director Tod Booth, with choreography by James Kinney.

DSC01365aaaThe plot is the story of two well known song-and-dance men, Bob Wallace (Tony Lawson) and Phil Davis (Brian Beach) who follow two show business performers, sisters Judy (Becca Gottlieb) and Betty Haynes (Krista Severeid) to a booking in Vermont at Christmas. They discover Columbia Inn, where the women will be performing, is owned by their old Army Commander, General Waverly (Kurt McCall). He is on the verge of bankruptcy as he can’t attract paying guests because the weather is unseasonably warm and there is no snow. Bob and Phil decide to rescue the “old man,” and set out to boost the resort’s popularity and fill the empty rooms. As expected, romantic entanglements occur, but don’t go because you are looking for a cutting edge plot. You will find beautiful ladies and handsome guys and seventeen memorable Irving Berlin songs, like the Oscar winning “White Christmas,” the Oscar nominated “Count Your Blessings,” “Blue Skies,” and “How Deep is the Ocean,” just to name a few.

The show has a lot of comedy, much of it provided by Lisa Valdini as Martha Watson, the inn’s concierge, who is secretly in love with its cash-strapped owner. Ms. Valdini reprises a role she did in 2012 and is once again excellent and an audience favorite.

If you love great dancing, this is the show for you. Two numbers stand out. “Blue Skies” has Mr. Lawson in a white tux under blue lights and is a visual delight. “I Love a Piano” was a show-stopper, judging by the audience’s reaction, which featured tap dancing so outstanding, you would think you were watching a show on Broadway.

Set Designer Ian Black and Lighting Designer Dave Dionne have created staging completely different from that of the 2012 show, and dancing and solos are emphasized. The entire cast has exceptional vocal talents.

The Costume Crew (Camala Pitts and Dorinda Quailes) obviously used great care and creativity in the selection of the picture-perfect costumes.

Others in this talented cast were: Jason Nettle, Katie Nettle, Jessica Booth, Megan Sell, Mike Kinney, Chris Warren Murry, Shawna Walker, Alex Nordin, Shain Stroff, Madison Turner, Jessella Jaramillo, Jessica Hayden, and Michael Lomeka.

IMG_0143The Production Staff included Cathy Murphy Giddens (Accompanist), Jason Nettle and Kelsey Clifford (Stage Managers), Alex Nordin (Dance Captain), Jim Jackson (Sound Design), and Kelly McCormick (Properties).

Executive Chef Dejuan Roy and his staff once again offered four excellent entrees to delight your palate. We though the kale salad was outstanding, and we both chose the traditional turkey with dressing, sweet potatoes, and green beans. Other choices included a fish, beef or vegetarian dish, and four different desserts. .

It is not too early to make your New Year’s reservations. “Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story” is returning due to popular demand. New Year’s Eve at the Alhambra includes, of course, a great meal, dancing, and a festive midnight celebration, followed by an always delicious breakfast buffet. Season tickets for next year are on sale and they make great gifts.

The show ends with the entire cast singing “White Christmas,” joined by the audience, as a light snow falls on the stage. A marvelous ending to a great show infused with holiday spirit.

 

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

october, 2021

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