Old fashioned musical fills Cadillac Palace Theatre with joy

 

(L-R) Kelly Sheehan and Jeremy Benton and company itap dancing to “I love a Piano” in Irving Berlin’s White Christams. (Jeremy Daniel Photography

4stars

It didn’t matter that outside temperatures were diving into the icy teens because inside the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Tuesday, “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” was warming the hearts of families and veterans with “Happy Holidays,” “Count Your Blessings” and “We’ll Follow the Old Man.”

But good as Berlin’s music and lyrics and David Ives and Paul Blakes’ book are, what makes the touring production now playing in Chicago worth its four stars is its talented cast and Randy Skinner’s excellent choreography and direction.

There are the perfectly executed dance numbers by a superb ensemble and the wonderful dancing of Kelly Sheehan as Judy Haynes and Jeremy Benton as Phil Davis. Plus, there is the beautiful voice of Kerry Conte as Betty Haynes  and the Martha Raye-style singing and acting of Lorna Luft as Martha Watson.

Kudos also to Kyla Carter who was spunky and in fine voice as the general’s young granddaughter, Susan Waverly, for the Dec. 10 show. She alternates with Emma Grace Berardelli.

What was surprising and added to the show’s Broadway-level presentation which is by Work Light Productions, are the impact of Anna Louizos’ scenic design and the ease of scenery changes of Kenneth Foy’s scenic adaptation.

 

(L-R) Kerry Conte as Betty Haynes and David Elder as Bob Wallace in IBWC National Tour Company. (Jeremy Daniel Photography)
(L-R) Kerry Conte as Betty Haynes and David Elder as Bob Wallace in IBWC National Tour Company. (Jeremy Daniel Photography)

On a more personal note, I’m not a fan of long dance numbers but this production’s outstanding tap numbers such as “I Love a Piano” are alone worth the ticket price.

For people who haven’t seen the 1954 movie that is the basis for the stage show or other productions of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” the plot begins with a WWII division’s entertainment segment by Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, moves to their post-war success as a song and dance pair, then has them meeting the talented Haynes sisters and going north with the girls to the sisters’ next gig at a Vermont inn.

More than a rom-com musical, the show tugs at the heartstrings because the inn is owned by Wallace and Davis’ former army commander who has too many bills and not enough guests.

Wallace has a scheme to bring guests to the inn in time for the show he, Davis, their regular ensemble, and the Haynes sisters are doing.

(L-R) Lorna Luft, Kyla Carter and Conrad John Schuck, IBWC National Tour Company. Jeremy Daniel Photography, 2019

The only criticism I have of the current production is near the end when there could have been a much more dramatic reaction by Conrad John Schuck as General Waverly to seeing the barn where the show is performed, filled to the rafters with his former division. It was OK but didn’t bring tears to the eyes as it did in some other productions.

That said, this touring production is a wonderful reminder of how good, old-fashioned musicals have been and can still be.

DETAILS:  , “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., only through Dec. 15, 2019. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission. For Tickets and other information visit Broadway In Chicago. For more information on the show see IrvingBerlinsWhiteChristmas.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

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