‘White Christmas’ Stage Version Faithfully Captures Essence Of Classic Film

November 28, 2023


Write Christmas – Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. Used with permission.

Like many other die-hard fans, watching the 1954 Paramount musical film, “White Christmas,” starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemay Clooney, each year on television, has become a holiday tradition. Consequently, seeing a stage adaptation of the work titled “Irving Berlin “White Christmas,” now playing at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, presented a conundrum.  Because the film is so emblazoned in my memory, it was practically impossible not to compare the two works. Nevertheless, when I saw the stage version Saturday at Beef & Boards, I did my best to keep an open mind. I must admit, however, that I struggled to compartmentalize the two interpretations in order to judge the stage version fairly. Fortunately, I was able to do so, and this review is evidence of that effort.

It’s hard to imagine there is anyone who isn’t familiar with the “White Christmas” plot, that is the same in both film and stage versions. Nevertheless, here’s a rundown — following World War II, former Army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis team up to become a top song-and-dance act. After several years of success, Phil is weary of show business as usual and decides, as a diversion, to play matchmaker for Bob. The two hoofers encounter a pair of attractive sisters named Betty and Judy who also have a song-and-dance act.  After the ladies book a Christmas show at a Vermont Lodge, Wallace and Davis follow them. Later, the two vets discover that their former commander, General Waverly, is the lodge’s proprietor. A series of romantic mix-ups unfold as the performers try to help the General and win the hearts of their love interests.

Expertly directed by Ed Curry, the Beef & Boards production ultimately won me over because it effectively captured the spirit and the heart of the original work it is based on. And of course, the convincing performances of the appealing cast, added to my enjoyment of this capsulized tribute to the film which features a much larger scope and scale. Each worthy of recognition. the well-cast ensemble included leads Elliot Litherland (Bob Wallace), Heather Patterson King (Judy Haynes), Kenny Green Tilford (Phil Davis), and Deb Wims (Betty Haynes).

Standout performances were turned in by Litherland whose vocals were particularly outstanding as were those of Neal who was spectacular in the showstopping solo “Let me Sing and I’m Happy” in Act 1. Showing poise and natural talent was young Abigail Kai Johnson, who reprised “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” in Act 2. Both the staging and the performance of the passionate medley duet of “Love You Didn’t Do Right by Me/How Deep Is the Ocean,” featuring Patterson and Litherland, was as compelling as it was moving.

White Christmas – Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. Used with permission.

A comprehensive review of the show must include mention of the technical glitch that occurred backstage following the first few scenes, and which caused a 15–20-minute delay in the show. A reminder that anything can happen during a live performance, the incident did not seem to deter the forgiving audience’s engagement because once the show resumed, their focus and attention, as was mine, was immediately recaptured. Beef & Boards is to be commended for its straightforward and transparent handling of the matter.

Contributing to the crowd’s response to the show’s unexpected interruption was the excellence of Ron Morgan’s choreography which impeccably mirrored the post World War II era and music director Terry Woods who led the five-piece band that beautifully executed Irvin Berlin’s timeless score. Also effectively conveying the look and feel of the story’s midcentury period and setting was set designer Michael Layton, costume designer Kathy Henry, lighting designer Ryan Kolharchik, sound designer Daniel Hesslebeck, projection designer Joey Boos and wig designer extraordinaire Andrew Elliot.”

“White Christmas” was the opening salvo in my attendance at a month-long series of holiday shows. I am happy to report that this Beef & Boards offering, with its message of generosity and good will towards others, is a fitting kick off to a season of hope and joy and one that I heartily recommend for audiences of all ages.

Tickets for “White Christmas’ are available at beefandboards.com or by calling the box office at 317-872-9664.























photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and Examiner.com, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

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