As cheery as a Christmas card and as corny as a popcorn ball, White Christmas is mandatory fare for holiday-minded theatergoers — especially when it comes wrapped in a production like the one currently gracing the stage at the Woodlawn Theatre (in San Antonio).
The story is well known to fans — Bob Wallace (Mark McCarver) and Phil Davis (Travis Trevino) are former army buddies turned famous song and dance team who chase singing sisters Betty (Amanda Golden) and Judy (Kate Miller) to an inn in Vermont where they’re scheduled to perform over the holidays. A surprise heat wave has hit the area, though. There’s not a flake of snow on the ground, and the discouraged guests are leaving en masse in search of more appropriately chilly climes.
When Wallace and Davis learn from desk clerk Martha (Megan DeYoung) that the inn is owned by their beloved ex-commander, Gen. Henry Waverly (Kevin Murray), they decide to use every means at their disposal to fill the place back up in time for Christmas and save it from bankruptcy.
This 2004 adaptation of the 1954 film wisely keeps the story set in its proper time period, and here the Woodlawn company has a blast recreating the colors and costumes of the ’50s. The cast is terrific, with McCarver and Wallace deftly handling the roles inhabited by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in the original. They’re complemented nicely by Golden and Miller.
Kevin Murray channels famed character actor Charles Coburn in his portrayal of the gruff but good-hearted colonel, and Ben Scharff brings the ‘Broadway tough’ as the nonstop promoter Ralph Sheldrake. DeYoung is fun as the Merman-mouthed Martha, and her daughter Sophie is precociously amusing as the general’s granddaughter, who gets bitten by the showbiz bug. Alison Hinojosa and Lauren Silva are hilarious as — ahem — “experienced” showgirls Rita and Rhoda.
The ensemble’s singing and dancing are spot-on, aided considerably by Josh Pepper’s sumptuous nine-piece live orchestra and Alonzo Corona’s elaborate choreography. Rose Kennedy and Laura Briseno had their hands full with the dozens of costume changes, and they delivered with a wealth of colorful, eye-pleasing outfits. Kurt Wehner’s multi-layered set design is attractive and evocative, and yes — we do get snow. Chris Muenchow’s lighting and Benjamin Farrar’s sound also contribute to the whole experience. I only detected a couple of dropped words on opening night when a performer’s mic wasn’t live, but that’s the tiniest of quibbles in a major undertaking such as this.
Director Greg Hinojosa does an admirable job keeping everything moving smoothly, no mean feat considering the size of the cast. The standout numbers in the show are “Snow,” which pantomimes a winter ride on a Vermont-bound train, and “Blue Skies,” presented as a Bob Fosse-style number with sizzle. But it’s all a pleasure, with lots of fun, nostalgic dialogue, settings and costumes — and really terrific performances.
White Christmas plays Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. at the Woodlawn Theatre, 1920 Fredericksburg Road, San Antonio. Tickets can be obtained online or by calling (210) 267-8388.
Review by Kurt Gardner.