BWW Reviews: The Denver Center Theatre Company Presents Holiday Delight with WHITE CHRISTMAS
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by Michael Mulhern
In celebration of the holiday season, The Denver Center Theatre Company (DCTC) presents Irving Berlin's WHITE CHRISTMAS playing the Buell Theatre now until December 24th. With a lyrical score by Irving Berlin that includes unforgettable classic songs such as "Happy Holiday," "Sisters," "Blue Skies," "I Love a Piano," and the popular title number "White Christmas," this stage adaptation of the beloved Paramount Pictures film musical with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye delivers gorgeous songs with a touch of nostalgia. Two World War II vets are determined to rescue their beloved commanding officer whose country inn is imperiled by lack of snow. With the help of their girlfriends (a pair of singing sisters) they hatch an ingenious plan to save Christmas.
I was a little apprehensive when I saw that the Denver Center Theatre Company was doing WHITE CHRISTMAS. I mean, let's face it, even for as charming and nostalgic as the movie is - this show is a little dated. I was wondering what the gifted mind of director Kent Thompson was going to do to keep this show fresh and active. He has always delivered in his interpretations of Shakespeare (Midsummers Night Dream, Taming of the Shrew) and he totally gave it to us again in this delightful production as well. This show featured some fabulous talent with an emphasis on costumes and choreography. This combination of elements only enhanced this exceptional production and there was a smile on my face for the entire show. One feature that I truly appreciated was an underlying theme of "Support Your Troops" which is still very previlent to this day and really touched my heart being an Army Brat myself. Sometimes it is easy to forget those service members that are on the front lines, protecting our freedoms and others; and it is important to support and honor them any way we can. While the love story carried the show along, this show was all about the dancing. Some of the show stopping numbers include, Sisters, Show, What Can You Do With a General, Let Me Sing and I'm Happy, Blue Skies, I Love a Piano, and Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun. This show was the perfect blend of phenominal dancing, lovely singing, romance, comedy, Christmas delight and oh so many amazing costumes!
Tom Galantich as Bob Wallace and Amy Bodnar as Betty Haynes were paired perfectly together and had just wonderful chemistry as well as great voices.The lovely coupling of Nicolas Dromard as Phil Davis and Kate Marilley as Judy Haynes that did all the heavy hoofing and really rose to the occasion! Mike Hartman as the grumpy with a heart of gold General Henry Waverly, was spot on with his performance and just fascinating to watch. In sharp contrast, Dorothy Stanley as the sarcastic and loveable Martha Watson was truly sensational. This felt like this was a role that she was born to play and she acted and danced with such ease and was a true highlight of the show. Kaelee Hart was just adorable as Susan Waverly. She really brought a freshness and youthfullness to the show with her playful performance. Melinda Cowan and Brandi Wooten as Rita and Rhonda were absolutely hilarious as the Bobsey Twins and their over the top performance was a true delight to the audience. Randy Foster may have only had a couple lines as Ezekiel Foster, but each one had the audience in stitches every time.
I have to give a standing ovation to the amazing choreography of Patti Colombo. She included such a variety of genres including, big band, swing, tap and jazz. It it rare that I jump out of my seat during a show, but when the company started Blue Skies which was a total homage to Bob Fossee, I was on The Edge of my seat at full alert. During Act One, I was wondering where that tap number was, but all my desires were fulfilled with the amazing tap extravaganza in Act Two. Set designer Anna Louizos did such an amazing job of creating Christmas magic with larger that life sets that were perfect for the Buell Theatre. The inn, both inside and out were extraordinary; I also loved that smoky jazz club in Act Two. The snow was the perfect touch to the evening and brought us the weather that Denver is praying for for Christmas! Over 200 costumes were used in this production, based on original designs by Carrie Robbins and set in the post WWII period. This challenge was met by the talented David Kay Mickelsen bringing the entire show a sense of enchantment with ultimate Christmas joy. I must also mention that with so much dancing, these costumes were perfect for movement and flowed gorgerously. The lighting by designer Tom Sturge show great variery and has such wonderful touches that excentuated every performer. The sound was adequate, but there were several issues during the show and many mic cues were late, clipping the actors and annoying the audience. Also the levels of the music verses the singing was a bit of a battle at times and left a little something to be desired. Musical Director, Gregg Coffin gave us some toe tapping music and found phenominal voices for this stellar production. Director Kent Thompson really tapped into some amazing talent from both cast and crew to bring us fresh and magnificient Christmas production.
If you love Christmas, romance, dance, or just an enjoyable evening of theater, then you do not want to miss this stunning production. The Denver Center Theatre Company (DCTC) presents Irving Berlin's WHITE CHRISTMAS in The Buell Theatre now until December 24th. For tickets or more information, contact the box office at 303-893-4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org. Denver Center's holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol, will return in 2013.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jennifer M. Koskinen