“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” at the Orpheum Theatre: Checking cheer off your list


White Christmas. The seemingly redundant title that promises simplicity and holiday cheer. The average American is all too familiar with the 1954 movie musical classic, starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. This is a show that is best enjoyed with family and while sipping hot cocoa. The production at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, follows Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, veterans of the Second World War turned powerhouse performing duo (played by James Clow and Jeremy Benton). The story revolves around the wise-cracking pair as they chase after singing sisters Judy and Betty (Kaitlyn Davidson and Trista Moldovan) to Vermont during the Christmas season, expecting snow and instead getting romance, friendship and musical theater! It’s not a very heavy show in case you couldn’t tell by the title. Accompanied by beautiful tunes by Irvin Berlin, this is a story that is inside many Americans’ Christmas memories.

Transforming a movie into a full-blown stage adaptation can be difficult. In the case of this production, the switch was done in a strange manner. The plot seemed to be an afterthought to the creators, and was stuffed moderately in between the songs. The show on a whole appeared as if everything was done with the intention of allowing audience members to cross things off their “White Christmas” lists. Crude and out of date humor? Check. Long Tap number? Check. Emotional connection for the audience? Not so much. The actors seemed to be acting and singing in each scene in order to get to the finish line faster. On the other hand, this steamroller of holiday cheer came screeching to a halt at the end of Act One, during “Blue Skies.” The poor pacing of the show left the audience scrambling behind, trying to keep up with all the moral lessons we were was supposed to be learning, and cute child actors at whom we were supposed to be cooing. They couldn’t even carve out time for the song “White Christmas,” which was sung at about four times the speed than I’ve ever heard it. One doesn’t like to get the sense that the “Christmas Spirit” is something one can inject into one’s veins for a quick fix.

There were many things to enjoy about this production, however. If you wanted to simply enjoy an Irving Berlin musical revue then this is the show for you! The songs were very well done, with exciting choreography, by Mary Gianttino-Styles and clever set and costume pieces. The retro feel of the production was perfect, with campy graphics and enough chorus boys to drown a Broadway Diva. The performance that stood out for me was the actress who played Betty, Trista Moldovan. Rosemary Clooney left big shoes to fill, Moldovan more than delivered. Her voice, full of molasses and honey, sounded like one on an old record. “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me,” left me awed. The actors themselves were above par (with the exception of a line flub by James Clow), and they seemed to shine in their roles. Overall, if you are seeking a low-calorie version of the beloved movie classic, then this will get the job done. Check cheer off your list and enjoy the dip into nostalgia