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Theater Review - Engeman's "White Christmas" Is A Smash!


White Christmas

Produced by: The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport

Reviewed by: Jeb Ladouceur



These days (with rare exceptions) Broadway shows that feature singing and dancing, provide one, maybe two, memorable songs in their repertoire. In “Annie,” it was the unforgettable Tomorrow; “Phantom of the Opera” gave us a somewhat less than toe-tapping Music of the Night, and “The Book of Mormon” left practically nothing musical inscribed in our collective memories. But that’s typical of modern shows … for example, let’s hear you hum a tune from “The Lion King.” No luck? — try “Wicked.” — you get the picture.

How rewarding it is, therefore, to re-visit Irving Berlin’s seemingly endless medley of classic numbers all gathered in the song-filled “WHITE CHRISTMAS.” Can you say: Blue Skies - Let Yourself Go - Count Your Blessings - How Deep is the Ocean? - White Christmas (of course) - Got My Love to Keep Me Warm - and my personal favorite…Let Me Sing & I’m Happy. Furthermore, that list represents only half of the show-stoppers you’ll want to see and hear at the Broadway-quality John W. Engeman Theater, where WHITE CHRISTMAS plays now thru January 5, at 250 Main Street in Northport Village.

One need not be a Senior Citizen to know that the stage version of Irving Berlin’s appealing musical premiered in San Francisco kicking off a string of professional performances that has blanketed North America. Since that 2004 inaugural, the show has been mounted in theaters from Boston to Los Angeles, Louisville to Toronto, and most major cities in between.

Veteran moviegoers, of course, will fondly recall the 1954 Paramount film that started it all. As Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye teamed up with Rosie Clooney and Vera Ellen, singing and dancing to such hits as I Love A Piano, Sisters, and The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing, the entertainment industry simply went bonkers. The same thing happened to The Engeman audience in Northport at Saturday’s sold-out opening. When Aaron Ramey (Bob Wallace) and Drew Humphrey (Phil Davis) fell for the gorgeous sisters (Betty and Judy Hayes), played wonderfully by Kennedy Caughell and Darien Crago respectively, sparks virtually flew—and by the final curtain the applause was literally deafening!

Aaron Ramey, Kennedy Caughell, Darien Crago & Drew Humphrey

Whatever Mark Adam Rampmeyer did to prepare himself for directing this seasonal favorite, he should make careful note and repeat it meticulously in future assignments. He’s molded this group of twenty professionals into a stylish, capable, and above all enthusiastic clockwork of songsters and hoofers who seem to be having great fun every step of the way.

There’s a ‘Gee Willikers’ flavor to this adaptation of the WHITE CHRISTMAS book by David Ives and Paul Blake, and that’s because Rampmeyer has succeeded in grasping the early fifties piquancy the play needs. Those were simpler times, don’t forget … modernization would have been a shame. We might have missed out, for instance, on the incredibly touching song and dance duet performed by the superb Kathryn Kendall and child prodigy Katie Dolce.

I’ve never subscribed to the idea that a performing cast member should also assume the more administrative role of choreographer, however the masterful Drew Humphrey has pulled off that iron-man feat this holiday season. I haven’t seen a more precise or spirited show all year than the one presided over by the relative novice at the helm of the high-stepping WHITE CHRISTMAS troupe. The tap dance numbers are especially well done.

But everything about the enchanting production is special. See this lavishly costumed, beautifully lit, bonanza for yourself. It’s Magnificent!

Award-winning Smithtown writer Jeb Ladouceur is the author of eight novels. His theater reviews appear in several major L. I. newspapers. In Ladouceur’s new thriller, “The Dealer” released last month, extortionists threaten to destroy Hoover Dam demolishing the Las Vegas Strip - if casino operators don’t pay millions.

Reader Comments (2)

The mention of the titles of Berlin's songs reminded me of the days when the tunes were melodious and the words comprehensible and meaningful. I not only remember them, but I still remember most of the words.
Great review, Jeb- as usual.

Wed, November 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarguerite Zangrillo

What a splendid revue!! What with the weather forecasts and all, chancing a flight north in order to be in the audience would be iffy - and I do have a bunch of pies to bake - but if anything could convince me to make the trek from Florida, that revue would do it.
Sounds as though Ladouceur had a wonderful evening. Lucky him! - Genie Myers

Thu, November 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterG. Myers

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