Curtain call: Sweet ‘Christmas’
|By Mary C. Cusack|
Riverwalk succeeds with iconic holiday musicalIf Riverwalk Theatre’s production of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” was a dessert, audience members would sink Review into diabetic comas well before intermission.
Yes, it is that sweet, but that sweetness and innocence is a welcome treat in a world of Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays. The quality of this production transports the audience to a joyful world where a man doing a song and dance is not a euphemism, but a romantic overture.
The script is a simplified version of the classic 1954 film, in which two famous showmen Bob (Joe Quick) and Phil (Adam Woolsey) accompany the up-andcoming
performing sisters, Betty (Racheal Raymer) and Judy (Rachel Dalton) to a Vermont inn at Christmastime. Once there, the
men discover that the financially failing inn is owned by their former WWII commanding officer, Gen. Henry Waverly (Doak Bloss). They scheme to save the inn and romance the women along the way. Much singing and dancing ensues.
The movie featured the quadruple star power of Bing Crosby (who played Bob), Danny Kaye (Phil), Rosemary Clooney (Betty) and Vera-Ellen (Judy). Riverwalk director Jane Falion succeeds in the daunting task of casting four solid leads to take over those iconic roles.
Woolsey and Raymer give standout performances. Raymer has the pipes for musical theater. Woolsey’s Phil is such a harmless and charming boy-man that one can overlook his caddishness.
The production values match the talented cast. This is a refreshing and often rare balance, given that the quality of Riverwalk’s musicals often skews one way. As early as the third number, “Let Yourself Go,” it becomes obvious that the costumes are going to be amazing. And they just keep getting better throughout. Costume designer Kris Maier’s pieces are creative and sumptuous, eye candy in the bright palette of holiday confections.
Choreographer Karyn Perry uses every inch of Riverwalk’s space to stage tap extravaganzas.
The big numbers often feature a dozen or more dancers, but the choreography is clean and the dancers are placed strategically based on their strengths and abilities.
Frequent costume and scene changes can bog the pacing of a production, but not so here. Blackouts between scenes are brief, and Falion has choreographed the entrance and exit of ensemble players with maximum efficiency. The set is minimal, and scene changes are mostly indicated by props, which the cast members quickly sweep on and off stage as they come and go.
“White Christmas” is the feel-good experience one would expect. More so, it provides the decompression one needs when the stress of the holidays presses in. It’s as simple as one of its songs: “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy.”
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”
7 p.m. Wednesday- Thursday, Dec. 11-12;
8 p.m. Friday*- Saturday*, Dec. 13-14;
2 p.m.* & 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15 (*= sold out performance)
$20/$18 students, seniors and military/$10 kids
228 Museum Drive, Lansing
(517) 482-5700, riverwalktheatre.com