Friday, December 04, 2009

Irving Berlin's White Christmas - The 5th Avenue Theatre

Irving Berlin's White Christmas
5th Avenue Theatre
November 28th – December 30th
Tickets and Information

Irving Berlin's White Christmas was first shown at the 5th Avenue three years ago, and its newest incarnation is just as popular, sweet, and heart-warming as the first one. The story begins at the 151st division's army camp on Christmas Eve 1944, where pals Phil Davis (Greg McCormick Allen) and Bob Wallace (Michael Gruber) are singing to bring some kind of holiday cheer to their fellow troops. Fast forward ten years later, and Bob and Phil are song-and-dance sensations, bringing their charm and panache to the Ed Sullivan show and then Miami, Florida—or, in fact, Pinetree, Vermont, as the pals meet up with a sister act, Judy and Betty Haynes (Taryn Darr and Christina Saffran Ashford) and their relaxing holiday in the sun becomes anything but.

The tale is a light-hearted, optimistic and patriotic one, meant for revisiting classic songs and enjoying a spectacle on stage, and the 5th Avenue delivers on both counts. James A. Rocco's choreography highlights each song to perfection, with full use of the talented ensemble and plenty of bang-up tap dancing. The sets (Anna Louizos) and lighting (Tom Sturge) entrance the eyes, and Carrie Robbins' costumes are pitch-perfect post-war stylings, complete with high-waisted hotpants, sparkling nylons and crisp suits. David Armstrong and James A. Rocco's direction moves the story along without a hitch, keeping the style light and the pace engaging.

Greg McCormick Allen and Michael Gruber imitate the sister act. Photo by Chris Bennion.

The leads are all solid in their roles and singing in period style, and clearly having plenty of fun in this rollicking holiday tale. Both pairs of performers have their partnership and patter down well, with Darr (Judy) and McCormick Allen (Phil) joyfully picking up on each other's witty banter, while Ashford (Betty) and Gruber (Bob) move believably from awkward meeting to lover's embrace. But the scene-stealer's award is taken easily by Clayton Corzatte, whose Ezekiel garnered applause and laughter from his first painstakingly slow journey across the stage, on opening night.

White Christmas is a simple story, but a touching one, and is surrounded by 1940's glamor and Berlin's catchy, swinging music. For a charming and lively holiday tale, this one can't be beat—especially with the 5th Avenue's snowy surprise waiting for the audience at the end of the show.

Review by Kenna Kettrick

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