by Beki Pineda

WHITE CHRISTMAS – Written by David Ives and Paul Blake; Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin; Directed by Kate Vallee. Produced by Candlelight Dinner Playhouse (4742 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown) through January 8. Tickets available at 970-744-3747 or ColoradoCandlelight.com.

And yet another holiday favorite finds a home this season. I swear I think the theatres text each other and decide among themselves who is going to do what when every holiday season rolls around. BDT: “We did WHITE CHRISTMAS last year so you can do it this year.” CDP: “OK, and as thanks, we’ll promote your terrific version of BUDDY in our curtain speeches.” Miners Alley Playhouse:  “We’ve done A CHRISTMAS CAROL two years in a row so we’ll do something different this year – hey, how about A CHRISTMAS STORY?” DCPA:  “Leave CHRISTMAS CAROL to us, guys. We’ve got it covered!”

courtesy Matthew Gale Photography

The ones that benefit from these negotiations are the audience members who get to enjoy their favorite shows in a different setting year after year. You will enjoy this splashy colorful melodic WHITE CHRISTMAS.

Let me just say straight off that it was an absolute pleasure to see both Kent Suggs and Sammie Jo Staggs be awarded parts that befit their considerable talent. Kent playing General Waverly, the retired Army man who now owns the inn where most of the play takes place, brings a tear to your eye as he addresses his men for the last time. it was an extremely thoughtful and touching gesture on the part of Candlelight to ask all the service men and women in the audience to stand up and be recognized at the command performance for General Waverly that ends the show.

Giving Sammie Jo a chance to show off her belt is never a risk and always a pleasure. Her fans have been waiting through role after role in the ensemble for her to get another chance to breakout as a solo songstress.  She sings “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” from her heart and soul.

The main romantically linked couples do right by the collection of vintage Irving Berlin melodies. Scott Hurst Jr. as usual was in fine voice and gave us old favorites such as “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” and “How Deep is the Ocean.”  His partner in romance is Mary Ann Dutcher as Betty Haynes, one half of the singing dancing Haynes Sisters. Maryann recently came in off the sea from the cruise line circuit to entertain us with her sultry sincere singing voice . . . on solid ground.

The younger romantic duo are Nathan Petit as Phil Davis and Sara Kowalski, both graduates of the amazing musical theatre program at the University of Northern Colorado which cranks out performer after performer for theatres all over the Front Range to put to work. They graduate with professional skills which were demonstrated to great effect by both of these talented performers in songs like “I Love a Piano” and “Blue Skies.” The sweet touch of choreography by Matt Dailey shown brightly in that final selection.

The final show stealer in this script is the young girl who gets to play Susan Waverly, the General’s visiting granddaughter. A quick learner, she stops the show by singing Martha’s “Let me Sing” song back at her. A triple cast part, Susan was played exceedingly well by Kate Trainor for our performance. Add in an experienced and energetic ensemble of ten more dancers and you’ve got yourself a show.

WHITE CHRISTMAS is a different kind of jukebox musical that highlights the music of long gone Irving Berlin. During his lifetime, he was a prolific composer who has 1500 songs attributed to him. Several enterprising producers have reached back into his catalog to put together a loosely woven script that accommodates some of his best known compositions. WHITE CHRISTMAS is one of them. But all of these songs came from other much older Broadway musicals or revues. Even the comic songs were written for another show and squeezed into this one  Martha’s “Let Me Sing” song first appeared in a show in 1930 called MAMMY. The novelty song “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun” first appeared in a war time musical called MISS LIBERTY. Since Berlin donated a lot of his royalties to various charities and government agencies during WWII, he would probably be proud to see these songs having a second successful life.

Candlelight – as always – did a wonderful job on the tech end of things. The movable sets include a USO tent during the war, a moving train car, the proverbial barn for the show, the lobby of the Inn. a beautiful nightclub setting and several more. The costumes captured the flirty fashions of the forties, stylish rehearsal clothes and costumes for the shows, and, of course, the iconic red velvet costumes for the finale. Candlelight does it again!!

A WOW factor of 9!!

 

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