Classic Theatre of Maryland’s production of White Christmas is a colorful celebration of music, singing, and dancing. Based on the famous 1954 movie, with a book by David Ives and Paul Blake, and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, it tells the charming story of former WW II soldiers turned celebrity entertainers trying to save their general’s failing Vermont inn over Christmas while falling in love. Directed by Sally Boyett, it is a great show to kick off the holiday season.
Neil Devlin plays Bob Wallace, co-star of the performing act Wallace and Davis, with a nice combination of cynicism and kindness. Early on, in “Love and the Weather,” he sings about having given up on love. He is the only one in “Snow” not looking forward to a Vermont winter. Yet in “The Old Man,” he shows his love and appreciation for the General (John Pruessner). He bonds with the young Susan (Miranda Kvedys) in “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep),” singing her to rest. And he is filled with quiet passion in “How Deep Is the Ocean” realizing his love for Betty (Madeline Sparkes).
Madeline Sparkes gives a fierceness to Betty. Awkward at first meeting Bob, she takes offense at his apparent admiration for “playing angles,” coldly avoiding him for a while afterward. She is equally determined not to fall in love in “Love and the Weather.” In “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me,” she sings with an elegance that moves into powerful passion.
Jake Daley brings a lightness to Phil Davis, Wallace’s performing partner. Always making jokes, he twirls Judy (Audrey Ella Garland) around in “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” and tap-dances wonderfully in “I Love a Piano.” He also enjoys the attentions of Rhoda and Rita (Meghan Keeney and Mackenzie Koehne).
Audrey Ella Garland plays Judy, Betty’s sister, with quiet strength. She sings and dances joyfully in “The Best Things Happen” and “I Love a Piano,” but challenges Phil on his occasional wandering eye.
Meghan Keeney and Mackenzie Koehne are great comic fun as the ditzy Rhoda and Rita, flirting with Phil and laughing at Judy’s frustrations.
John Pruessner plays General Waverly with a tough exterior covering his softness, reprimanding his troops for putting on a show during combat before thanking them for a job well done. His speech at the end is heartfelt before ending with humor.
Christine Asero is a hoot as Martha, the inn’s concierge. Leading up to the show she hints to Bob and Phil about a performer who would be terrific for it. She sings with joy in “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” while giving directions on lighting. Consoling Betty, she comically explains how “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun.”
Dexter Hamlett plays Ralph Sheldrake, Davis and Wallace’s agent, with great enthusiasm, calling any good idea a “million-dollar proposition.” He and Asero have a nice comic back-and-forth during a phone call. He is wonderfully funny as stagehand Ezekiel, at first answering with only “A-yup.” As Hamlett also plays Scrooge in Classic Theatre’s concurrent production of A Christmas Carol, there is a fun inside joke when, as Ezekiel, he responds to “Bah, humbug” with “Yeah, I’ve been hearing a lot of that, too.”
Miranda Kvedys brings a youthful intelligence to the General’s granddaughter Susan. Called “Suzie” by the family, she prefers to go by “Susan,” although if she can get into the show, she’ll “go by anything!” Her rendition of “Let Me Sing” is joyful and energetic as she slides offstage.
Adam Levine has great comic anxiety as stage manager Mike, nervous at getting a full show on in five days in a barn. The Ensemble (Neal Bechman, Charli Bush, Andy Edelman, Meghan Keeney, Mackenzie Koehne, Katie Kotila, Christine Asero, and Adam Levine) is amazing, full of energy and passion with each song and dance.
Costume Designer Sally Boyett evokes the mid-1950s while distinguishing the characters, with long dresses for the women and jackets, ties, and hats for the men. For many of the song and dance numbers, they wear bright, often sparkly, outfits. For one, Betty is in a long, black evening gown. Wig Designer Tommy Malek maintains the era with period-appropriate hairstyles.
Lighting Designer Adam Mendelson enhances the show’s energy with various colored lights. Blue light shines during “Blue Skies.” Various colored lights play for “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” as Martha and Susan give direction. For “Love and the Weather,” spotlights highlight first Bob then Betty. Sound Designer William K. D’Eugenio throws out atmospheric sounds, including period music and announcements from the characters during intermission.
Music Director Maureen Codelka ensures the music can be heard, while never overwhelming the music. Sally Boyett does a wonderful job as choreographer and director. The dancing is excellent, with lots of tap, spins, leg lifts, and other beautiful movements that keep the audience riveted to the stage. The actors navigate the stage and each other perfectly and hit all the right comic and emotional moments. The different renditions of the title song are especially poignant. White Christmas is sure to put you in the holiday mood.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 30 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas plays through December 24, 2023, at Classic Theatre of Maryland – 1804 West Street, Annapolis, MD. For tickets ($55–$75 ), call the box office at 410-415-3513 or purchase online.
Irving Berlin’s 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