There are two kinds of people: those who adore the 1954 movie White Christmas and those who either haven’t seen it or don’t count it as a favorite holiday film. The former will most likely be enchanted by the stage adaptation currently playing at the Music Hall at Fair Park, while the latter will probably regard it as merely a lukewarm cup of holiday cheer.
Full disclosure: I’ve never seen the movie. You can guess where this review is heading, and if you’d prefer to keep your nostalgic view of the film intact then it’s presumably in your best interest to stop reading now. But here’s why I found this national tour less than delightful.
It’s not the cast. Led by James Clow and David Elder as the 1950s showbiz duo Bob Wallace and Phil Davis (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in the movie), the cast—especially the nimble chorus—is more than up to the task of performing Irving Berlin’s beloved tunes. Trista Moldovan and Meredith Patterson are elegant and endearing as the singing sisters who team up with the men and eventually become their sweethearts. Ruth Williamson, who played the role of smart-aleck housekeeper Martha in the show’s last DFW go-round in 2011, here keeps the wisecracks coming and lends a powerful pair of pipes to some comedic numbers.
Beginning with a Christmas Eve on WWII front, the story follows Wallace and Davis to their song-and-dance fame a decade later, when they discover the Haynes sisters performing in a club and then all end up together at a Vermont Inn where, tragically, there’s a heat wave. After the arrival of a gaggle of lithe dancers tapped by the men to literally mount a show in the inn’s barn to save the property, misunderstandings and romantic encounters ensue.
There is tap dancing galore, but sadly that’s where some of the musical’s charm starts to melt away. Many of Berlin’s songs have been extended to include lengthy dance breaks, a slap-up idea that’s executed less than flawlessly. Choreographer Randy Skinner, who’s aligned his career closely to Berlin’s canon and consistently struggles to innovate, delivers dances that shrink rather than sparkle.
Numbers like “Blue Skies” and “I Love a Piano” that benefit from lush lighting (by Ken Billington) and glamorous costumes (Carrie Robbins) present a striking tableau, only to then disappoint with pedestrian steps and rudimentary formations. Tap dancing looks impressive to begin with, so it’s not a good sign when those sequences leave you longing for more.
The one truly magical moment is the finale, where the promised snow from the musical’s title floats gracefully down on first the stage and then out over the audience. The faux snowflakes are the prettiest, most delicate I’ve ever seen, and for that moment the shiver of Christmas magic feels real.