It's the most wonderful time of the year at the Ohio Theatre as Irving Berlin's WHITE CHRISTMAS opened to a packed house on Tuesday night. Based on the classic 1954 film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, this stage adaptation remains a universal traditional audience favorite.
The plot centers around former Army buddies, Bob Wallace (played by James Clow) and Phil Davis (David Elder), who have since formed a successful singing duo on the Ed Sullivan Show. While auditioning struggling sister-act - The Haynes Sisters (performed by Stefanie Morse and Mara Davi), Phil Davis has an instant attraction to Judy Haynes and they scheme to develop the same fiery attraction between their partners. In doing so, Davis tricks Wallace into traveling to Pine Tree, Vermont where the girls are booked to sing at the Columbia Inn.
Upon arrival in Pine Tree, the Wallace-Davis duo are surprised to find out that the Inn is owned and operated by none other than their former World War II General, Henry Waverly (played by Joseph Costa). Struggling to keep the Inn from total collapse, Wallace concocts a plan to put on a Christmas Eve show at the Inn’s barn, complete with the troops from their 151st Division.
Along the way, however, Phil and Judy continue their torrid romance, Bob and Betty fall in and out of love, a little girl tugs at the General’s heartstrings, tap dancers dazzle and delight the audience, then, predictably, a typical “Three’s Company” misunderstanding ensues and snowballs until finally things are set right and all’s well in love and war, resulting in a beautiful winter wonderland.
Although cliche in its theme, standout performers and a heartwarming story with gorgeous Berlin music and astonishing choreography by Columbus’ own, Randy Skinner, keep this musical alive and well.
David Elder as Phil Davis is one of those standout performers. Smooth, graceful, sharp, enthusiastic, and seamless, Elder epitomizes the 1950’s style as he effortlessly glides across the stage with his incredible classic charm. His chemistry with Mara Davi’s Judy Haynes is convincing and authentic, and their dancing is perfection. “I Love a Piano” may be one of the best dancing numbers I’ve ever seen. Perfection in every sense of the word. Period.
James Clow and Stefanie Morse are less enthusiastic but serve as effective counterparts to the cheeky Elder/Davi duo.
Two other standouts who keep the momentum of the show rolling along is the spitfire Martha Watson (played by Ruth Williamson) and Mike Nulty (played by Kilty Reidy). Both offer comedic relief and keep the show going at a well-proportioned pace.
General Waverly (played by Joseph Costa) and his adorable granddaughter, Susan (Shannon Harrington on this opening night) were convincing and lovable in their roles.
Overall, some of the scene transitions were a little slow on opening night, and sound seemed to be an issue as well. The dancing in “Blue Skies” was not as tight as it should have been. However, the lush, full sounds of the orchestra, under the stellar direction of Michael Horsley, provided a gorgeous sound at the Ohio Theatre with sharp brass tones and rich, lavish strings.