Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Ocean State Theatre Company’s holiday show this year is the family friendly “White Christmas” which is based on the beloved timeless 1954 film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. This heartwarming musical adaptation features seventeen Irving Berlin songs. Veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis have a successful song and dance act after World War II. With romance in mind, the two follow a duo of beautiful singing sisters on route to their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge, which just happens to be owned by Bob and Phil’s former army commander, General Waverly. Phil is a skirt chaser and comic while Bob is more cynical. He and Betty have a love hate relationship while Judy has to tame Phil from hanging around two of the chorus girls. The first act is a series of fast moving vignettes so the second act seems better written with the continuity of the storyline. Musical numbers shine especially in the tap dancing segments which stop the show with power and punch. Director/choreographer Paula Hammons Sloan casts some strong leading players who capture your hearts with their earnest portrayals of these folks from the 1950’s. She infuses high energy in her 22 member cast with the comic moments winning the day and the somber moments in “Count Your Blessings” and “White Christmas” with the audience joining in while singing it. Musical director John Jay Espino obtains strong vocals from the performers and an excellent sound from his topnotch five piece orchestra. This musical treat wins a standing ovation from the appreciative audience at the curtain call.
The beautiful set is by William Davis while the multitude of seven costumes per cast member is by Emily Tardish. Nate Suggs and Joel Kipper as Bob and Phil are spectacular in their roles. Nate gets to sing “Love and the Weather”, “Count Your Blessings” and “How Deep is the Ocean” with Bob’s true love, Betty. Joel displays his voice in the show stopping “I Love a Piano” with his gal, Judy where they do an astonishing tap dance with the chorus. He and she also do “The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing” with a Fred and Ginger style dance which then turns into a polka. I last reviewed Nate in “Anything Goes” as Billy. I first reviewed Joel in “George M” at Theatre by the Sea back in 2008. The guys also do a comic version of “Sisters” which brings the house down with sustained laughter.
The two leading ladies are also sensational. Stefani Wood and Maria Logan are fabulous as Betty and Judy with their dynamite voices and dancing prowess. They do a marvelous job with “Sisters” and of course in the title number. Stefani’s voice soars with Nate in their duets but one of her prettiest songs is “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me” when she thinks Bob doesn’t love her anymore. Maria also displays her strong voice and does a bang up job during “I Love a Piano” with Joel where she taps on top of a toy piano and the trio with Stefani and Susann called “Falling Out of Love Can be Fun” which is a hoot. It is an Andrews sisters, three part harmony number.<P>
Mark Cartier does a topnotch job as the curmudgeon, General Waverly. He pretends to be gruff with his men but becomes a softie around his granddaughter who has him wrapped around her little finger. Susann Flecther is phenomenal as Martha, the manager of the inn. She steals many a scene with her wise cracks and her dynamite song and dance is “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” which stops the show with her expertise. Her high kicks and cart wheel are perfect and her belting voice is marvelous, too. Susann’s trio number with Stefani and Maria is another crowd pleaser. Casey Nadzam as Susan, the General’s granddaughter also steals many a scene. She gets to sing “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” in the second act which brings much laughter. She displays a lot of talent at a young age. However it is the dancers in the show that bring magic to the stage with their dance numbers in “Happy Holiday”, “Blue Skies”, “How Deep is the Ocean”, “Sisters” and the dynamic “White Christmas” which brings a smile to your face and a tear to your eye. So for a musical treat that the whole family can thoroughly enjoy and savor, be sure to catch “White Christmas” at Ocean State Theatre Company before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.
WHITE CHRISTMAS (30 November to 24 December)
Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI
1(401)921-6800 or www.oceanstatetheatre.org