Tap dancers steal the show in ‘White Christmas’ at Classic Theatre of Maryland

The dazzling score by Irving Berlin features well-known standards that invite feet to dance.

Classic Theatre of Maryland’s version of White Christmas knocked the socks off the nearly full opening night audience. Molly McCloskey’s choreography steals the show. The tap dancing is first-rate.

Austin Rubinoski plays a delightful Phil Davis, who sings, dances, and acts into viewers’ hearts. He leads an energetic troupe of attractive people including Olivia Calvel-Davis, Emma Miller, MacKenzie Koehne, Madeline Dunne, Griffin Cole, Kevin Mazur, and Anthony Nardulli, who seem to enjoy what they are doing and invite the spectators to enjoy it as well.

First row: Sal Rocha (Bob Wallace) and Austin Rubinoski (Phil Davis); second row: Emma Miller (Tessie / Ensemble), Madeline Dunn (Rhoda/Ensemble), Olivia Clavel-Davis (Judy Haynes/Ensemble); third row: Anthony Nardulli (Marty/Ensemble), Kevin Mazur (Scooter/Ensemble), Griffin Cole (Mike/Ensemble) in ‘White Christmas.’ Photo by Sally Boyett.

The play is based on the 1954 film; this musical adaptation features the music of Irving Berlin and centers around a successful song-and-dance act and a duo of singing sisters. The book is by David Ives and Paul Blake.

“I’ve always found Berlin to be a ‘dancer composer,’” choreographer Randy Skinner said in a Playbill interview in 2008. “He wrote three films for Fred and Ginger. He just knew how to write songs that were danceable. After you pick his songs, all you do is decide what genre you want to dance in — tap? jazz? ballroom?”

In this play, Capt. Bob Wallace (Sal Rocha) and Pvt. Davis served under Gen. Henry Waverley (John Pruessner) in World War Two and, ten years later, they are still w

orking together in a popular song-and-dance duo, Wallace and Davis. When they meet the singing sisters Betty (Kaitlin Harbin) and Judy Haynes, Phil becomes smitten with the beautiful Judy (Clavel-Davis), while Bob is more reserved about his feelings for Betty.

Kaitlin Harbin (Betty Haynes) and Olivia Clavel- Davis (Judy Haynes) in ‘White Christmas.’ Photo by Sally Boyett.

The two men follow the sisters up to their seasonal engagement at The Columbia Inn in Vermont. They discover the inn is owned by Gen. Waverley but, unbeknownst to him, the inn is struggling to survive. With the help of Martha (Christine Asero), the concierge, and the General’s granddaughter, Susan (Ainsley Zauel), Bob, Phil, Betty, and Judy decide to put on a big show to draw in business.

Austin Rubinoski (Phil Davis) and Olivia Clavel-Davis (Judy Haynes) in ‘White Christmas.’ Photo by Sally Boyett.

Five distinct love stories are revealed during the play. Three involve a man and woman, one man and man, and a third between men and a man. I won’t give the plot away here, you have to see the performance.

Bob arranges for an old Army friend to bring the general’s former troops up to Vermont to support the show. Martha misinterprets a message for Bob, tells Betty, the women think Bob wants to buy the inn from under the general’s feet instead. Neither woman ever asks Bob, confusion reigns, and the plot twists. Betty leaves Vermont for a shot at individual fame in New York City. Bob follows her to attempt to reconcile but, believing he has lost her, he goes on the Ed Sullivan Show to reach out to his former division to come to the show in Vermont.

Stuff happens and the show is a huge success.

The dazzling score features well-known standards — including “Let Yourself Go,” “Blue Skies,” “I Love a Piano,” “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” — that invite feet to dance. Rocha leads “White Christmas” with the audience invited to sing along at the end.

Running Time: Two and a half hours, including a 20-minute intermission.

White Christmas plays through December 24, 2022, at Classic Theatre of Maryland, 1804 West Street, Suite 200, Annapolis, MD. Show times vary between 2 pm and 8 pm. For tickets ($58.50–$78.50 including fees), call 410-415-3513, email BoxOffice@ClassicTheatreMaryland.org, or purchase online.

White Christmas
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives and Paul Blake
Based Upon the Paramount Pictures Film Written for the Screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, and Melvin Frank

Cast: Sal Rocha, Bob Wallace; Austin Rubinoski, Phil Davis, Kaitlin Harbin, Betty Haynes, Oliva Clavel-Davis, Judy Haynes; John Pruessner, Gen. Hank Waverly; Christine Asero, Martha Watson; Ainsley Zauel, Susan Waverly; Dexter Hamlett, Ralph Sheldrake/Ezekiel Foster; Emma Miller, Tessie/Gloria/Ensemble; MacKenzie Koehne, Rita/Ensemble;  Madeline Dunn, Rhoda/Ensemble;  Griffin Cole Mike/Ensemble; Kevin Mazur, Scooter/Ensemble;  Anthony Nardulli, Marty/Ensemble.

Director/Costume Designer: Sally Boyett; Music Director: Reenie Codelka; Choreographer: Molly McCloskey;  Sound Designer: William D’Eugenio; Scenic Designer Salydon Boyken; Lightening Director: Adam Mendelson.

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