Sunday, December 6, 2009

Keep the snow, but give us White Christmas

We've all seen the movie version of White Christmas a zillion times, and the current staging at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, directed by James A. Rocco and David Armstrong, borrows liberally from the company's 2006 production, including casting the same actors in three of the four leading roles. Yet it isn't boring in the least. The high-energy show sparkles, and how can you get tired of all those Irving Berlin tunes?

Michael Gruber and Greg McCormick Allen are back as Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, and Christina Saffran Ashford returns as Betty Haynes. Carol Swarbrick reprises her role as Martha Watson. The significant new player is Taryn Darr, who is dynamite as Judy Haynes. Darr's dancing is amazing, she can really belt out a tune, and she's a darn fine actress, which I think is tough to pull off in a big house like the 5th. She was part of the ensemble of the show at the 5th in 2006; it's great to see her up front and center this time.

A couple of other great casting choices are Seattle stage veterans Frank Corrado as General Waverly and Clayton Corzatte as Ezekiel. Corrado is neither singer nor dancer, but he's alternately grumpy and hilarious as the general. Corzatte adds marvelous comic moments to the show, though his lines mostly consist of a long, drawn-out Vermont "aaayy-yup!"

My favorite number was "I Love a Piano," which opened the second act. It starts with Allen and Darr singing about a tiny grand piano -- think Schroeder from "Peanuts" -- and builds marvelously into a high-octane dance number featuring the ensemble dressed in either white or black, matching the piano keys on the huge red backdrop.

White Christmas is a marvelous show. It runs through Dec. 30.

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