I have a confession: I’ve never watched the movie White Christmas. Of course, I knew the song – reported to be the most successful song of all time – but I didn’t know the song appeared first in the musical Holiday Inn and other than the fact that Bing Crosby starred in the movie, I couldn’t tell you a thing about the plot.
I’ve heard of families that make this movie a Christmas tradition. That seductive picture does paint images of people wearing heavy red and green sweaters with reindeer and fuzzy balls surrounding a fire and sipping spiced rum and hot cocoa while singing Christmas carols.
My Filipino family had different traditions: after eating huge amounts of pancit, lumpia, lechon baboy and turkey, someone – usually the latest new “Canadian” boyfriend – would be convinced into donning an ancient Santa suit and hand out the hundreds of gifts that my large family gave to each of the 20 or so nieces and nephews.
As I grew older, Christmas took on a different meaning. Maybe it’s because I was living across the country, away from my family, for a number of years. Or maybe it’s because culturally we’ve become aware of the importance of including other religions during the holidays. But most likely, it’s because as I’ve grown older, I’ve become more jaded and skeptical about the consumerism of it all. I find myself limiting gifts for my kids, trying to teach lessons of giving and receiving, and reminding my children that it’s not just about the gifts.
On Wednesday, my husband and I ventured out in the typical – if not a tad more rainy than usual – mid-November weather and faced reports of 80 km winds to view the opening of the Arts Club’s production of White Christmas, now playing until December 27.
With the weather frightful but nowhere at all evocative of Christmas and only a handful of storefronts displaying Christmas wares, plus the fact that I had no previous context for the play that I was about to see, I arrived with no expectations – and left with a little bit of joy and jingle in my heart.
White Christmas delivers the high entertainment value of a Broadway production in the intimate setting of the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre.
This musical tells the story of ’50s showbiz stars Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, played by Jeffrey Victor and Todd Talbot respectively, who, rather than take their scheduled trip to Miami, detour to Vermont to chase the singing-dancing duo Judy and Betty Haynes, played by Monique Lund and Sara-Jeanne Hosie, sisters who with “two diff’rent faces but in tight places … think and … act as one.” Upon arrival, they happen upon their old army general, now an innkeeper and close to bankruptcy, and the foursome decides to help the wartime hero by holding a Broadway-style show to raise money.
The cast gave exceptional performances with not a weak link in the entire company. Susan Anderson as Martha Watson gave a stand-out performance of “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” reprised later by the adorable and talented young Rachael Withers as Susan Waverly.
But the dance numbers stole the show. From the energetic “Let Yourself Go” at the beginning of the ’50s segment of the play to the lovely and romantic “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” to the incredible tap performance of “I Love a Piano” – each and every routine left the audience gleeful and cheering for more.
Leaving the show, I had that glow that you feel whenever you’ve watched something amazing and excellent. White Christmas has all the themes that any feel-good show should – romance, fun, joy and a good dose of sentimentality.
Perfect for bringing back that Christmas spirit.
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Arts Club, Playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
November 12 to December 27, 2009
Based upon the Paramount Pictures film written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, and Melvin Frank
Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Book by David Ives and Paul Blake