THEATER | A flawless “White Christmas” at the Ordway


Who doesn’t think of family gatherings, gift giving, and memories of past holidays when they hear the words “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”? Whether you actually wish for a white Christmas or dream of strolling the beaches of Hawaii humming along to “Mele Kalikimaka,” Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical will have you tapping your feet and feeling good.

irving berlin’s white christmas, a musical (book by david ives and paul blake, music and lyrics by irving berlin) presented through january 3 at the ordway center for the performing arts, 345 washington st., st. paul. for tickets ($25-$125) and information, see

The song “White Christmas” was written by Berlin for the movie Holiday Inn, a 1942 film about an inn that’s only open on 15 holidays each year. The song became such a blockbuster hit that in 1954 Berlin came up with the idea for the movie White Christmas. It is this movie that the stage production is based on.

White Christmas is the story of two Army buddies, Bob and Phil, who have become Broadway show producers. It is December 1954 and their paths cross with two singing sisters. They hatch a plot to not only get to know the sisters better but also to help their retired Army general, who owns an inn in Vermont and is running out of money. There is no snow, and therefore no business at the inn. They decide to rehearse their new Broadway show at the inn and to surprise the general with a reunion of his troops. There are complications, misunderstandings, and romance—all wrapped around spectacular show tunes.

The Ordway’s White Christmas gives the audience a “really big show”—starting with Bob and Phil peforming “Happy Holiday” on The Ed Sullivan Show. It features spectacular choreography, tap dancing, colorful costumes, and an ensemble that seems to have endless energy. The 23 musical numbers move the story along and incorporate many favorites from the original movie (“Count Your Blessings,” “Sisters,” “Snow,” “We’ll Follow the Old Man”) with several new songs written for this stage production.

The singing and dancing, the staging, the choreography, and the costumes are all flawless. Before I knew it hours had passed, snow was falling, and the cast was singing White Christmas to an audience roaring with applause. As the curtain dropped, my daughter said, “It would be tough to find anything bad to say about this show.” She’s right.

Jean Gabler ( is program director for undergraduate business programs at the University of St. Thomas.