REVIEW: White Christmas at Covedale

By Doug Iden

I’m Dreaming of a Covedale Christmas…” December ushers in the annual Covedale holiday treat which this year features White Christmas.  It is everything you want it to be.

PLOT AND CHARACTERS

Based upon the movie of the same name, White Christmas follows the exploits of two ex WWII army buddies who have joined as a successful song and dance team.  The pair, Bob Wallace (Jeremiah Plessinger) and Phil Davis (Christopher Wells) meet two singing sisters, Betty Haynes (Jenny Herndon) and Judy Haynes (Haley Moore Haskin), and the romance is off and running (with lots of singing and dancing).  Davis is very gregarious with a long record of romances while Wallace is more staid and wary.  

The sisters are counterpoints with Judy as the outgoing one and Betty more conservative.  Phil and Betty engage immediately and plot to match the other two romantically.  The sisters are scheduled to perform at an obscure ski resort in Vermont and all four end up there.  To Bob and Phil’s amazement, they discover that the failing resort is owned by their beloved ex-army general Henry Waverly (Bob Allen) and they decide to help by staging a big production show to be broadcast on the Ed Sullivan tv show.  Betty misunderstands Bob’s intention and leaves for New York but Phil and Judy try to reconcile them.

There is a lot of humor in the show emanating from secondary characters. They include Waverly’s manager Martha Watson (Kelsey Chandler), Waverly’s granddaughter Susan (Libby Whitman), Ralph Sheldrake (Elliott Handkins) and Jamie Steele and Jerrod Gruber (who both play various zany roles).  Two women who obvious adore Phil act as demented teenagers which detracts from the story.   

The four leads (Plessinger, Wells, Herndon and Haskin) are excellent with good voices and dancing ability.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS in WHITE CHRISTMAS

It’s always a Christmas feast with Irving Berlin music.  All the songs from the original movie are included plus others from Berlin’s extensive song catalog.  To try to loosen up Bob’s reticence, Phil and the ensemble sing and dance to “Let Yourself Go” and Betty and Judy sing the wry “Sisters” as part of their nightclub act.  Bob and Betty harmonize the message ballad “Count Your Blessings” and the ensemble rhapsodizes about “Snow” in Vermont.  Act One ends with the Berlin classic “Blue Skies.” 

Sister, Sisters in WHITE CHRISTMAS at Covedale
Sister, Sisters in WHITE CHRISTMAS at Covedale

“I Love a Piano” opens Act Two followed by the comic number “Falling Out of Love Can be Fun” with the three primary women bemoaning previous romantic failures.  Lost in the shuffle of lively Berlin songs is one his best torch songs “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me” intoned by Betty while Bob pleads his case with “How Deep is the Ocean.”  The masterpiece, of course, is the title song heard initially in the opening scene and then in the finale when snow finally falls and helps save the ski resort.  Plessinger asked the audience to sing along with the final version.  

CREATIVE TEAM

The costuming by June Hill and Jesselee Whitson is extensive and extraordinary.  Garb includes Santa costumes, white coats with glittery shirts, winter wear, tuxedos, dancing rehearsal outfits, a piano scarf, military uniforms, and nightclub dresses with fans in the “Sisters” number.  The set design by Brett Bowling is simple but effective displaying a rustic and somewhat decrepit barn where the rehearsals are happening.  Props including tables, a resort reception desk, dressing rooms with clothes racks, a train car and a piano.

Choreographer Cassidy Steele is really coming into her own.  There is a lot of dancing in a wide variety of styles including tap, ballroom dancing, chorus lines and a smidgen of ballet.  All the dancers under Dance Captain Peyton Wright are good, coordinated, in step and synchronized with the prerecorded music led by Greg Dastillung.  Dancing highlights include a scintillating ballroom dance by CLP newcomer Haskin and Wells to “Let Yourself Go.” Of course, the “Sisters” routine done initially by the women and then parodied later by Bob and Phil, sitting tap dancing on prop pianos and numerous chorus numbers.  Director Tim Perrino knits all the elements well.

Cast of Covedale's WHITE CHRISTMAS
Cast of Covedale’s WHITE CHRISTMAS.

OVERALL

This is a bright, fun, entertaining bit of holiday fluff, filled with great music, good dancing and singing and enough humor to make it a very satisfying production.  The large audience seemed very receptive.

GET TICKETS

So, don your gay apparel, hire a sleigh and sled down to the Covedale Center for Performing Arts to gift yourself to White Christmas” continuing through December 23.  Call 513-241-6550 or click HERE for tickets.

Covedale’s next production is the thriller Wait Until Dark running from January 25 through February 18.