TR Robertson …..The Winter Holiday season becomes a busy one for patrons of musical theatre as numerous popular traditional musicals are staged throughout the county. One of the most popular, “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”, will be coming to a end after a five year run at the historic Spreckels Theatre on Broadway in downtown San Diego. This musical is based on the 1954 film by Paramount Pictures starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. The musical premiered on July 17, 2000 at The Muny Theatre in St. Louis. Music and lyrics were written by Irving Berlin and the book by David Ives and Paul Blake. It was nominated for 2 Tony Awards in 2009 for a Broadway Revival, Best Choreography and Best Orchestration.
The Spreckels production of “White Christmas” is directed by Todd Nielsen, Musical Director Don Le Master, Choreography by Lisa Hopkins. The large cast of 25 veteran actors and actresses and an orchestra of 22 filled the stage with enthusiasm and exuberance with memorable song and dance numbers. The story is a simple one. The musical begins in 1944 as two Army friends, Bob and Phil, are developing as a song and dance duo and are soon to be getting out of the Army. They have a favorite Army commander, General Henry Waverly, who is also retiring from the Army and purchases a Vermont lodge, the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont. Fast forward to 1954, the duo meets two sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes, Phil is smitten, wants to follow the sisters to the Inn where they will be performing and tricks Bob into going. They find out the Inn is running into hard times, needs help and they hatch a plan to put on a show in the Inn’s barn to help their former commander.
Lead by San Diego Musical Theatre veterans David Engel, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Misty Cotton, Jill Townsend and Karla J. Franko the story of saving a Vermont lodge at Christmas unfolded with dazzling dance routines, classic songs and humor. David Engel most recently appeared in “The Music Man” as Harold Hill and in a successful run as Gomez in “The Addams Family” at Moonlight Amphitheatre and returns as Bob in “White Christmas”. Engel and co-star Jeffrey Scott Parsons were perfect together as Army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis. Engel and Parsons had wonderful stage presence and strong voices along with smooth dance moves, especially in the tap dancing routines. Misty Cotton (Betty Haynes) and Jill Townsend (Judy Haynes) are both SDMT veterans and recently performed in “Peter Pan” at Moonlight. Jill Townsend returns in the role of Judy Haynes. The leads performed the well-known songs “Blue Skies”, “I Love a Piano”, “How Deep is the Ocean”, and the Christmas classic “White Christmas”. Audience favorite Karla J. Franko was hilarious as Martha Watson. This is her 5th year in this role and she has performed in numerous regional theatre productions. Ed Hollingsworth returns as General Henry Waverly and returning to “White Christmas” is 7th grader Claire Scheper as Susan Waverly. Claire wowed the audience with a powerful singing voice. In The Spreckels theatre production of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” the 22 piece orchestra is on the stage, resembling Lawrence Welk’s Champagne Orchestra. The minimal sets for the various scenes quickly appear on stage in front of the orchestra with the large cast, colorful costumes providing all that is needed on stage.
“White Christmas” is another great tradition to start with families for the holiday season. To further get the audience in the holiday mood, the cast leads everyone in a sing along of “White Christmas”. The end of the musical also leaves the audience with a worthwhile lesson – “If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep.” “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” has been a blessing for the last five years. Time is running out to see this fun, funny, enjoyable musical. The final show will be on December 4th. Tickets can be purchased at www.sdmt.org or call 858-560-5740.