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Riverside Dinner Theater White Christmas

By • Dec 5th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
White Christmas
Riverside Dinner Theater
Riverside Dinner Theater, Fredericksburg, VA
Through December 31st
2:45 with one intermission
$50-58/$46-52 Seniors/$40 (includes meal)
Reviewed December 3rd, 2011

Christmastime is one of the best times of the year to indulge in nostalgia. People gather with their friends and family to celebrate the holidays. And in doing all the visiting and celebrating people always share the stories of “remember when…” Who doesn’t look forward to re-watching those specials and movies that have made it into the “Christmas classics” section of our mind? Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is certainly a Christmas classic and Riverside Center Dinner Theater’s production is a nostalgic and fun trip to Christmas not so long ago.

White Christmas is a simple story of a couple of guys who meet a couple of girls. The bulk of the story takes place in the Christmas season of 1954. What happens next is all a part of the nostalgic musicals of the past. There’s some great music, a lot of dancing and plenty of romance.

Jeffrey Shankle led the cast as Bob Wallace, half of dynamic show team Wallace and Davis. Shankle crooned with a wonderful Bing Crosby quality while managing to inject enough modernity to make the song “White Christmas” feel like it was his own. Dennis Clark played the other half of the entertaining lead duo as Phil Harris with wonderful dance numbers and great delivery of witty repartee. Mary Payne played Betty Haynes, elegantly sang her songs with a wonderful and rich voice. Mary Anne Furey as Judy Haynes was a delightful dancer and standout in each of her scenes. Andrea Kahane played housekeeper Martha Watson with great energy, lobbing lines at other actors. Robert L. Nelson as General Henry Waverly had some tender moments but it was hard to discern what he was feeling as his characterization felt a little muddy at times. Annalese Fusaro was adorable as Susan, the innkeeper’s granddaughter. David Zimmernman had some terrific moments and made a great impression as Ezekiel Foster. By far, the surprise standouts were Rachel Huber and Katelynn Stillman as Rita and Rhoda, the show’s vivacious chorus girls. They made a strong impact and brought much humor and great dancing ability to the show. The large cast is rounded out with a sizeable ensemble of adults and children who added to the spectacle and warmth of the show.

White Christmas takes place in a variety of locations. Some sets such as the makeshift theater on the warfront and train car were very well done. However, a scene in Act II seemed to occur in no real place at all. One moment a song is being performed in front of a sumptuous backdrop then the dialogue continues in front of a black backdrop The show is so visually engaging that this really sticks out leaving questions as to where in the club it takes place. There was also some confusion during the song “Love and the Weather” as to why the characters picked up each other’s items when they were performing. They weren’t supposed to be able to see each other, as they were in different locations. I’m not sure if it was a cover up of a mistake as they sang back-to-back and reached for their props or if it was meant to be a whimsical “fateful” gesture.

The show is filled with choreography and large musical numbers. “Let Yourself Go” is a great number that opens with adorable period details and is filled with great dancing. However one lift in the middle appeared to be difficult and labored for the three couples executing it.

The costumes were executed well. Betty and especially Judy had some lovely pieces that were attractive and fit the period of the show. And many of the dancers and the rest of the cast sported some great costumes in the songs “Let Yourself Go” and “I Love a Piano.” Unfortunately, the suit with shorts outfits for “Blue Skies” seemed bulky and not of the era. There were also a few times when modernity was too present as the cigarette girl in the club scene in the first act didn’t look period, but like a present day girl. The traditional holiday outfits in the closing number made a strong and classic visual impact.

The director’s vision resulted in the cast creating a world of relaxing nostalgia. The show had a fresh feeling from the large amounts of energy pumped into from a tireless cast. The visual qualities of the performance transported you to a distant, happy place in the past. There are a few times when the script verges on cheesy dialogue, and some of the musical numbers seem slightly out-of-place or a little out of character. The script is different from the movie that everyone has come to know and love. It’s impossible to ever replicate a classic but this show gives you all the elements. If you want to see a Christmas musical with a smooth crooner, an elegant chanteuse and a spunky dancing couple this show fits the bill.

Director’s Notes

May I have your attention, please?

This production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas carries a rating of NC-10. That’s “Nice and Christmas-y.” hopefully making you feel like a child of ten again. A word of caution: there is nothing new, edgy, or overly profound in White Christmas. It’s strictly boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl (well, I’ll stop there so as not to spoil the ending). Along the way we are introduced to a host of colorful characters, pretty girls in pretty costumes, minor misunderstandings, and lots of Irving Berlin standards that have become staples of folksy Americana out of a bygone era.

Now if it sounds like I’m being disrespectful to this stalwart holiday classic – well, think again. In the fifty-seven years since White Christmas appeared at the box office, its simplicity, grace, tunefulness, and gentle humor have charmed generations of audiences. Simultaneously, shoes same qualities have become increasingly scarce in our lives, replaced by complication, harshness of manner and musical style, and comedy that is all too often “in your face” and at someone’s expense. And dare I even mention the commercialization of Christmas or the struggle to share anything as a family anymore?

White Christmas, the new stage musical, with its hit-parade approach to Berlin’s music and its family-friendly romanticized depiction of the 1950’s, turns the clock back a moment on all of that, sweeping us into an era of post WW-II optimism, where anything was possible as long as you had love, a barn, lots of passion, and some crazy kids to follow your lead. It reminds us that we as Americans have always been dreamers and optimists, focused more on what should have been and what could be than what really is. It lets us tweak our past for a moment, wrapping it in a bit of tinsel, showmanship, and falling snow. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that at all. Maybe things weren’t perfect back then either. So what? Together, if we wish hard enough, right now, today, I would bet we can make these few shared moments as simple, as beautiful, and as magical as a white Christmas. And if that happens, who knows what else we can do…?

And lest I forget the true magic makers at this theatre, I just want to take a moment to thank Dennis (choreography), Gaye and Nancy (costumes), Phil (lights), Robert (audio), Kylie (props), Dave, Matt and Curtis (set), Sharon and Ben (management), and all there respective staffs. And special appreciation to the men who make it all happen _ Ron and Patrick _ for all their hard work and dedication, not only on this production but for all the theatrical magic that occurs here year round.

Happy Holiday and enjoy the show!

Jason J. Michael

Cast

  • Bob Wallace: Jeffrey Shankle
  • Phil Davis: Dennis Clark
  • Betty Haynes: Mary Payne
  • Judy Haynes: Mary Anne Furey
  • General Henry Waverly: Robert L. Nelson
  • Martha Watson: Andrea Kahane
  • Susan Waverly: Annalese Fusaro
  • Ralph Sheldrake: Zachary Rogers
  • Rita: Rachel Huber
  • Rhoda: Katelynn Stillman
  • Ezekiel Foster: David Zimmenrman
  • Mike: Chris Standridge
  • Snoring Man: David Zimmerman
  • Mrs Snoring Man/ Tessie/Ethel/ Seamstress: Teresa Cundiff
  • Jimmy/Dance Captain: Anthony Williams
  • Assistant Seamstress: Rebecca E. Law
  • Train Conductor: Anthony Williams
  • Ed Sullivan Announcer: Michael Colby
  • Wallace-Davis Singers: Abbey Smith, Nancy M. Fury, Chris Standridge, Carl Bowman
  • Ensemble of Clubgoers, Train Passengers, Inn Guests, Chorus Kids, and Regency Room Patrons: Abigayle Anderson, Adelyne Anderson, Joshua Arroyo, Kylie Baker, Taylor Boyle, Carl Bowman, Michael Colby, Sarah Crockett, Teresa Cundiff, Nancy M. Furey, Rebecca E. Law, Kendall Mostafavi, Joshua Otten, Abbey Smith, Shris Standridge, Arthure J. Whittenberger, Anthony Williams, David Zimmerman
  • Understudies
    • Phil: Arthur J. Whittenberger
    • Betty/Martha-Nancy M. Furey
    • Judy- Rachel Huber
    • Susan – Abigayle Anderson
  • Ensemble Swings: Sally Roehl, Alan Schlichting

Crew

  • Producer: Rollin E. Wehlman
  • Director: Jason J. Michael
  • Musical Director: Rollin E. Whelman
  • Choreographer: Dennis J. Clark
  • Scenic Design: David P. Stock
  • Lighting Design: Phil Carlucci
  • Costume Design/Coordination: Gaye Law and Nancy M. Furey
  • Scenic Artist: Matthew P. Westcott
  • Production Manager: Sharon Gregory
  • Stage Manager: Ben Feindt
  • Associate Artistic Director for Riverside Center: Patrick A’Hearn
  • Stage Manager: Ben Feindt
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Ashton Banks
  • Senior Stage Technician: Paul Johannes
  • Senior Stage Technician: Steve Thompson
  • Senior Stage Technician: Thomas Cleary
  • Stage Technician: Kevin Cleary
  • Stage Technician: Tommie Cox
  • Stage Technician Swing: Jessie Croke
  • Stage Technician Swing: Gladys Perkins
  • Stage Technician Swing: Alexander Turk
  • Senior Lighting Technician: Nicky Mahon
  • Lighting Technician Swing: Sharon Gregory
  • Senior Audio Technician: Robert Walpole
  • Audio Technician: Joshua Watson
  • Audio Technician: Brady Harris
  • Wardrobe Supervisor: Gaye Law
  • Costume Master: Christopher Hlusko
  • Costume Assistant: Sarah PLanakis
  • Master Set Carpenter/Welder: Curtis Craddock
  • Set Carpenter: John Mahon
  • Master Scenic Artist: Matthew Westcott
  • Scenic Panter: Maria Duke
  • Properties Supervisor: Kylie Clark

Disclaimer: Riverside Dinner Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is an actor, singer, director and writer. She is a relative newcomer to the DC theatrical community. Kari has been performing since she was a little girl in church and began seriously pursuing acting in high school. She is a graduate of Emory & Henry College with a degree in Theater. The favorite part of her theatrical training was her apprenticeship at Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia. While at Barter Theatre she was privileged to act on the Main Stage (Eleanor: An American Love Story) and with the Player Company (Frog Prince and Just So Stories Two). Kari is currently concentrating on returning to acting and assisting with drama at her church.

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