Visions of sugarplums may be dancing in the heads of children, but that’s not the only place they’re taking up residence in New York. The sweet confections can also be found onstage at the Marquis Theatre, where the Broadway production of White Christmas is playing through January 6th.
Based off of the holiday movie classic starring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye, White Christmas tells the story of two song and dance men who, over the course of one holiday, put together a theatrical production, recruit former Army buddies to do a favor for their general, and, of course, fall in love.
Watching the film has been, for this critic, an annual dose of fond nostalgia, where good deeds are done without ulterior motives or thoughts of profit and people can fall in love after one chaste kiss. The spectacular dancing of Ellen and Kaye, combined with the classic crooning of Crosby and Clooney, have made viewing the film a chance to smile and sigh about the good old days.
A hefty dose of nostalgia is necessary for viewers of the Broadway performance, which takes the elements of the movie and spreads them out – literally – to fill the stage of the Marquis theater. No dance number is too big, no costume is too bright for this production, where the rainbow-hued pants and jackets are adorned with matching top hats and canes. Anyone longing for the days gone by of MGM classic musicals or even the fashion trends of top hats and fedoras will find them here, and in very large amounts.
Sadly, the bigness and brightness of the production does not equate it with its predecessor. A simple story like this requires three-dimensional, true-to-life characters that the audience will feel invested in, and this show does not have those. The whirlwind romances between the leads fall flat, and the comedic efforts of the supporting team feel heavy-handed and obvious.
While Stephen Bogardus’ smooth and light voice glides nicely over the Irving Berlin lyrics, and Jeffry Denman gamely performs the strenuous dance moves required of him, the two lack the necessary pizazz to make Wallace and Davis actual characters. As Betty, Kerry O’Malley’s voice is truly lovely, and her second-act duet with Bogardus of “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me/How Deep Is the Ocean” is one of the show’s musical highlights. Meredith Patterson gives the character of Judy as much as is possible, which, sadly, isn’t saying much. Her dancing, however, is outstanding and the second-act opener of “I Love A Piano” is truly spectacular.
The show is light and lovely, which is more than can be said about some acts on Broadway. And in the tough times that this country is facing, when many people’s holidays will inevitably be very lean, a hearty dose of cheer isn’t such a bad thing. It is, however, too bad that the dose costs at least $65.00 apiece.