White Christmas – Scene by Jenni Prisk
by Jenni Prisk
Before I begin my review I have to give kudos to Erin and Gary Lewis for the magic they are making at the historic Spreckels Theatre with San Diego Musical Theatre. They have built the company from scratch, and on opening night of White Christmas, the theatre was almost full. That’s a testament to the talent on their stage.
If you need to get in the mood for the Holidays, the perfect show to see is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. This is the fourth consecutive production by SDMT, and it’s beautiful. It runs only until December 6 so you had better run to get your tickets. Take the family, they will all enjoy it.
Directed by Todd Nielsen, with music direction by the gifted Don Le Master who conducts an excellent orchestra of 22, the production is heartwarming fun and frolic.The huge cast (28) delightfully fill their roles as they tell the story of two World War II veterans (Bob Wallace and Phil Davis) who have a successful song and dance routine that was taking them to Florida until they meet the beautiful Haynes sisters (Betty and Judy) and end up in Vermont.
They stay at a lodge that happens to be operated by their former Army Commander, General Waverly, and it’s not doing well. He has great support from Martha Watson and his granddaughter Susan, but to no avail. The bills keep piling up. But Bob, Phil, Betty and Judy find a way to turn the place around after many mishaps and meanderings.
Phil and Judy quickly fall in love although he has an eye for two pretty blondes in the show, Rita and Rhoda (Katie Whalley Banville and Siri Hafso.) Bob falls for Betty, but she doesn’t reciprocate as she thinks he’s double-dealing, so she leaves to sing at the Regency Room in New York, not knowing that Bob made the arrangements for her breakthrough act. Nor does she know that Bob has invited the soldiers from his former company to come and support the show that will open in the barn at the lodge, to raise funds for the General.
Chaos reigns throughout rehearsals but the stunning show opens on Christmas Eve 1954 with all lovers in tact, and money in the bank.The four leads (David Engel as Bob, Jeffrey Scott Parsons as Phil, Allison Spratt Pearce as Betty and Tro Shaw as Judy) are wonderful! They give each character warmth and wit and all sing very well. Memorable numbers are Love and the Weather, Sisters, I Love a Piano, and of course the unforgettable White Christmas.
Karla J. Franko is a marvelous Martha, filling the role of the would-be star with humor and style. And young Claire Scheper as Susan Waverly is a showstopper!
The high-energy ensemble lights up the stage in every number, with great choreography by Lisa Hopkins. And the costumes in every scene, especially the finale, are gorgeous (Janet Pitcher.)The only negative for me were the long blackouts between some minimal scene changes. Musicals thrive with a continuous flow of scenes, and I’m sure this is something that SDMT will work out.
Take time out of shopping and cooking this coming week to sit in the beautiful Spreckels Theatre and soak up some delightful holiday fare. San Diego won’t have a white Christmas but you can experience one through December 6.