The Center’s production of “White
Christmas - The Musical” is the theatrical
surprise of the season. After months of
political infighting, “Super Storm Sandy”
and the Yankees not getting into the World
Series, we are presented a perfect introduction
to the holidays. “Yes, Virginia, there is
a Santa Claus.”
It’s a production to knock one’s socks
off. A “Variety” Mugg might have suggested
it’s “boffo!” This poor scribbler for “The
Northern Dutchess News” can only offer
our own near amazement.
Most of us have seen the movie multiple
times in multiple Christmastides since it
debuted with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye,
Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen in 1954.
We may feel we know the story by heart.
The Broadway version keeps to the bare
bones of the story but makes enough
changes that it feels like a new show. There
are character changes, additional songs
from the best of Berlin’s work and a few
twists in the plot to either accommodate the
needs of the stage or just to keep us guessing.
This show is not just a rehash of a
The production isn’t quite flawless but it
certainly gets close.
Direction by DJ Salisbury is pure
Broadway, and the same can be said of the
choreography of Ms. Cooley. Both have
impressive resumes with credits all over the
United States, so it appears the producer
brought in a couple of ringers from out of
town to raise everyone’s game. If that was
the plan, it works. Salisbury made some
decisions relative to the sound and the use
of microphones that take the show from a
nice regional production and put it musically
into the big time. What is achieved is a
balance and clarity of the voices that one
seldom finds on stage. It can be found in
the movies simply because there is time to
do all of the appropriate mixing. In this
case the mixing is done live, no mean feat.
Casting is exquisite.
Bill Ross playing Bob Wallace (the
Crosby part) captures the right balance
between giving us the odd hint of Crosby
while never ever sinking into trying to do
an impression. His warm crooning is a perfect
match to the part and offers several
outstanding numbers including a duet with
Ms. Woolever, where he sings “How Deep
is the Ocean” as a counter point to her
“Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me.” The
combination of the two songs and voices is
Kevin Archambault plays Phil Davis
(the Danny Kaye role), Wallace’s partner
and more than a little bit of a ladies’ man.
He doesn’t have the singing depth that Ross
brings to the production, but he’s very
clearly a dancer’s dancer and, along with
Ms. Gustin, who plays the Vera Ellen role
as Judy Haynes, shines first in a number we
recall from the movie, “The Best Things
Happen While You’re Dancing.” Then, at
the beginning of act two, the pair nearly
bring down the house dancing to “I Love a
Piano,” a piece Berlin wrote in 1915 that
must have been conscripted into the stage
production since we don’t recall it from the
We’ve alluded above to the two female
leads, Emily Woolever and Amy Gustin,
who play the Haynes sisters, Betty and
Judy. Woolever has the role of Betty, which
was the Rosemary Clooney role in the
movie. Her voice competes exceptionally
well with our memories of Ms. Clooney
and her torch song, “Love, You Didn’t Do
Right By Me” mentioned earlier was likely
worth the price of admission on its own. We
can’t imagine any saloon singer in New
York doing a better job with it.
Ms. Gustin, new to the Center, we seem
to think, does well as the other sister and is
the perfect dance partner for Mr.
Archambault. The two of them are not
Astaire and Rogers. For one thing,
Archambault is more enthusiastic and we
can’t imagine Astaire ever doing an honestto-
gawd split. But, they provide dance
numbers with more polish than one would
ever expect to find this far north of Times
What of the rest of the cast? It’s hard to
believe they could all be as good. But, they
are. Fred Fishberg does Ralph Sheldrake
with a delightful flavor of New York.
Karen Forray plays Martha Watson.
She’s the woman who helps the general run
the Inn and listens in on conversations at
the switchboard for entertainment. This role
is far from the similar one in the movie and
has her as an ex-Broadway showgirl and
singer. She proves conclusively that even a
retired showgirl can still dance and belt out
a tune as if her Broadway days only
wrapped up last night. Forray is simply terrific.
Maybe better than that.
Charlie Henderson gets to do the
General Waverly part and mixes the gruff
ex-army man with a little humor and a great
deal of warmth. His men loved him and so
will the audience.
We can’t name everyone. Space precludes
that; but we must finish with compliments
to Julia Osterhoudt, the 8-year-old
young lady who takes on the role of the
General’s granddaughter, Susan. Her stage
presence is far beyond her years. She sings
a song in the second act, “Let Me Sing and
I’m Happy,” showing off a voice with more
power than that of some women three times
There we have it. Brilliantly directed and
choreographed, “White Christmas” is a
technically phenomenal production in
terms of sound, music and dance, showcasing
a balanced and talented cast. They are
clearly having a grand time putting it on.
The engagement is limited so expect it to
sell out quickly.
Change your plans if necessary; leave
the office Christmas party early if you
must; whatever effort is needed to catch this
one will not be regretted.