Irving Berlin: The Man Who Dreamt White Christmas

  • 12/13/2012
  • Terelle Jerricks

By John Farrell, Contributing Theater Writer

Irving Berlin has the copyright on Christmas. You could look it up.He wrote so many celebratory songs one critic said, “You couldn’t have a holiday with Berlin.”

The best-known is White Christmas, written in 1940, introduced in the film Holiday Inn in 1942, and for more than 50 years the biggest-selling of all records.

White Christmas became a movie of its own in 1954 and then a Broadway musical.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas the Musical is at the Norris Theater, in a tap-dancing, chorus girl-filled spectacular that will give you more Berlin songs than you can imagine, more remarkable lyrics than you can remember, but with a storyline that feels just a little flat. If you go to see the big production numbers you’ll have a great time. But ignore the story if you can.

Brent Schindle and David Lamoureux star as Bob Wallace and Phil David (the roles created by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) in White Christmas. While they sing and dance well, there is little of the star charisma about them. Gail Bennett and Tro Shaw are the Haynes sisters. Though they portray a sister act in Manhattan night clubs, you wouldn’t know it from their chemistry. Competent, all four, but hardly memorable.

Only Juliette Boland, a precocious youngster making her Norris debut as Susan Waverley, has the ability to make a song, in her case, Let Me Sing and I’m Happy, memorable.

Many of the dance sequences feature a large, competent and enthusiastic ensemble. But, with one notable exception, the cast seems all too White. When the movie was made more than 50 years ago it was excusable. Today, the tap-dancers seem embarrassingly unmixed — inadvertence — to be sure, but still noticeable, especially when Ramone Owens, the one black person, is given a special bit to dance solo.

The show is big, impressive, a crowd pleaser and full of Berlin hits. But it made better sense as a movie 60 years ago. For all that glittering music, its a gray Christmas, not a white one.

Tickets are $42, and $25 for children 12 and younger. Performances are at 8 p.m. Dec. 14, 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 15, and 2 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Norris Center for the Performing Arts in Palos Verdes.
Details: (310) 544-0403;
Venue: Norris Center for the Performing Arts
Location: 27525 Crossfield Drive, Rolling Hills Estates

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