by Norman Krasna,
Norman Panama and Melvin Frank
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives & Paul Blake
Directed & Choreographed by Marc Robin
Musical Direction by Michael Mahler
At Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire
Christmas come early in high energy Irving Berlin musical
Leave it to Marc Robin and the creatives at Marriott Theatre to take a mediocre musical and make it into a tuneful, dancing delight with heartwarming charm. Robin uses every opportunity to make Berlin’s songbook dance featuring tap, ballroom, jazz, ballet and soft-shoe movements to heighten the well know dazzling score.
Lovers of the popular film will love this production that follows it but adds more Berlin numbers and more dance; it also keeps the humor. It starts and ends with Christmas cheers with tunes like “Happy Holidays,” “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and the classic “White Christmas.” But in between, we experience a fully rendered new Broadway musical comedy.
The storyline follows two song and dance men (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in the film) here Bob (Rob Thomas) and Phil (Andrew Lupp) from their days in World War II to the early 50′s as they appear on the Ed Sullivan Show doing “Let Yourself G0.” This backstage musical finds Phil, ever the skirt-chaser trying to set up his partner Bob with a soul mate. They sing “Love and the Weather.” Phil takes Bob to see a sister night club act featuring Betty (Stephanie Binetti and Judy (Tammy Mader)–the sing and dance to, what else(?) “Sisters.” Phil and Judy instantly connect while Bob and Betty quickly become adversaries but subtle sparks do fly.
The show show utilizes Berlin songs to show emotions and anger with “Falling Out of Love,” “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” and “How Deep is the Ocean?” Eventually, all problems are resolved and all is copacetic.
The four end up in Vermont as Bob and Phil decide to help their old commanding General (David Lively) save his struggling winter resort by mounting a musical revue. Martha (Alene Robertson), the innkeeper’s receptionist and musical comedy want-to-be, ever the gossip, misinterprets a message from Bob’s producer. This causes Betty to hate Bob after having her mind changed with the cute “Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep.” The cast rehearses “Blue Skies” and the wonderful show-stopper “I Love A Piano” (my favorite tune from this show). What Marc Robin does with the choreography elevates this production into an extravaganza of musical comedy.
The outstanding turns come form Andrew Lupp and Tammy Mader who dance in the best tradition of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. David Lively gives the General real heart while Alene Roberston exudes terrific comic chops. Rod Thomas and Stephanie Binetti are charming as lovers. Michael Aaron Linder, Bernie Yvon and Michael Weber support with zany antics. The real stars of this show are the exquisite dancers (including Lupp and Mader) who glide into Robin’s choreography with panache. Nancy Missimi’s colorful costumes never seem to stop coming and Patti Garwood’s orchestra does Berlin justice.
This is a sweet, feel-good musical that is as much an Irving Berlin musical as a holiday show. It is family friendly and a toe-tapping delight. Once you see it, it’ll make you enjoy the eventual White Christmas to come.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: October 26, 2011
For full show information, check out the White Christmas page at Theatre In Chicago.
At Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, IL, tickets $41 -$49,running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through January1, 2012