Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives & Paul Blake
Directed by William Osetek
Musical Director Roberta Duchak
Choreographer Matt Crowley
Produced by Drury Lane Theatre
Combination Christmas show and backstage musical soars through song, dance, and comedy
This is the week of Irving Berlin, which started with a fabulous bio/musical by Hershey Felder at the Royal George Theater (https://chicagocritic.com/hershey-felder-as-irving-berlin/) and now contiues with Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook. White Christmas is much more than a “holiday show;” with terrific, tuneful, and utterly delightful Irving Berlin songs, I was sent back to my youth to remember the 50’s style Broadway musicals. Nostalgia wins here.White Christmas is a new musical (2004), filled with the wonderful Berlin songbook. 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), Bob (Sean Allan Krill) and Phil (Matt Raftery) 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 (Gena Milo) and Judy (Erica Stephan), who sing and dance to “Sisters.” Phil and Judy instantly connect, while Bob and Betty quickly become adversaries.The four end up in Vermont, where Bob and Phil decide to help their old commanding General (Don Forston) save his struggling winter resort by mounting a musical revue. Martha (Alene Roberston), 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), featuring terrific choreography by Matt Crowle.The show utilizes Berlin songs to show many emotions, including 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. Everyone enjoys a “White Christmas.” We all have been thrilled with many familiar Irving Berlin numbers nimbly choreographed and danced marvelously by his fleet-footed dancers.
Sean Allan Krill and Gena Milo sang up a storm, while Matt Raftery and Erica Stephan danced fabulously in “I Love a Piano.” Alene Robertson and Dale Benson offered many funny bits. Robertson’s belting “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” would make Ethel Merman proud! The sets (by Kevin Depinet), the lighting (by Lee Fiskness) and the costumes (by Robert Kuhn) all added a vivid Broadway feel to the show.
The real star here is the Irving Berlin songbook. To experience thrilling jazz, tap, and swing tunes and strong ballads begs for more musicals based on the great composers. Take your family to an old-fashioned, slick, well-danced Broadway musical devoid of gimmick but full of heart and toe-tapping songs. Drury Lane Theater returns to their roots with this classically-styled backstage musical with heart, tradition, and sing-able songs. Happy Holidays!
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: November 5, 2015
For more info checkout the White Christmas The Musical page at theatreinchicago.com
At Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook, IL, call 630-530-0111, www.drurylane.com, tickets $50,$60, $65, Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, Thursdays at 1:30 & 8 pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through January 3, 2016