Review: Ordway’s ‘White Christmas’ as cheery and fun as it is predictable

Renee Valois, Pioneer Press 12/14/16

By Renee Valois, special to the Pioneer Press.

“White Christmas” is like those Shiny Brite Christmas ornaments: colorful, sparkly and fun, with a nostalgic retro vibe. The Ordway’s production follows the arc of the 1954 movie musical starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, with minor tweaks to plot details.

Dieter Bierbrauer has the unenviable task of singing in Crosby’s role (no one has a voice quite like his), warmly portraying Bob Wallace, the Broadway star who meets Phil Davis, played with charm by Brian Sostek, while serving in World War II. The show begins as the pair present a holiday show to their outfit on Christmas Eve and learn their beloved General Waverly is being sent home.

Jump ahead 10 years to 1954 and the duo is a huge success. An old war buddy invites them to catch a performance by his talented and beautiful sisters, and that sets off romantic sparks with the two men — each falling for a different sister. Ann Michels and Jenny Piersol give Betty and Judy Haynes plenty of sass and talent.

Soon they’re all on their way to a Vermont inn where the sisters are set to perform, but a lack of snow threatens financial ruin for the inn, which turns out to be owned by General Waverly (James Michael Detmar). Of course, the gang decides to put on a huge show to help the beloved general.

Director and choreographer James A. Rocco packs the stage with flashy dancing, evoking the golden years of Hollywood, aided by sumptuous scenery designed by Anna Louizos and glitzy period costumes by Carrie Robbins.

It’s all in fun — except that this story follows the “idiot plot” element of the original film. I’m not a fan of stories that require everyone to NOT speak to each other in order to maintain drama.

Here, Betty suddenly thinks sweetheart Bob is horrible when the busybody “concierge” of the inn misunderstands a phone call and defames him. If Betty would simply ask Bob about the alleged situation, there would be no problem. But of course, she doesn’t.

However, that annoyance is more than made up for by lovely singing on more than 15 numbers, with Irving Berlin delights such as “White Christmas,” “Sisters,” “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” and “Blue Skies.”

Do Betty and Bob reconcile? Does snow finally fall in Vermont? Even if you’ve never seen “White Christmas,” I bet you can guess the answer. Luckily, predictability doesn’t harm the entertainment.

Appropriately enough, on opening night it DID snow. Flakes gently settled on the beautifully lit trees of Rice Park — and on the appreciative audience.

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