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Irving Berlin's White Christmas at the Academy of Music

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Photo Courtesy of Kimmel CenterIrving Berlin's White Christmas debuts at the Academy of Music to kick off the holiday season. 

Set in the stately Academy of Music theatre, White Christmas begins on Christmas eve in an army camp in Europe in 1944, where best friends Bob Wallace and Phil Davis are entertaining their homesick troops. When General Henry Waverly busts up their foolishness, he softens up and addresses the crowd as if we were his men. They all speculate where they'll be in 10 years, hopefully not at war. They end the scene with the ever popular "White Christmas" carol. 

When we next see Wallace-Davis, they are still entertaining, on the Ed Sullivan show 10 years later. While they both are enjoying the high life, Phil loves the ladies and Bob just wants to focus on his work- acting like a much older man in his "Love and the Weather," where he decrees both are unpredictable. Meanwhile, sister act Betty and Judy Haynes are also in their dressing room, preparing for a performance before heading up to headline a teeny show in Vermont, as their careers haven't taken off yet. We see the ladies perform the ever popular "Sisters," with Phil and Bob looking on. Afterwards, Phil and Judy begin to fall for each other during "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing," but Bob and Betty do not have the same luck, having already figured the other out and not much liking what they see. The chemistry between Bob and Phil is great (played by Stephen Bogardus and David Elder, respectively) - they really play off each other and you can see how their characters care for each other, and yet how different they are. 

Photo Courtesy of Kimmel CenterSo, the crusty old General buys an inn in Vermont and the ladies are scheduled to entertain, but Bob and Phil tag along, gearing up the ensemble on the train in "Snow." Once in Vermont, they find the General (performed by veteran actor Barry Flatman) crusty as ever, yet sweetly doting on his granddaughter, the ever-so-perky Susan (played by 10 year-old Sarah Safer), with Martha, the overworked and praying-for-some-fun secretary of the Columbia Inn, played fantastically by Lorna Luft. But all is not so rosy as the weather doesn't cooperate, no one is staying at the inn and business is not so good, so Bob and Phil launch an idea to save the place, and of course, hijinks ensue. 

Megan Sikora's Betty was my favorite character, sweet, fun-loving, and just so cute. Kerry O'Malley's Betty was thoughtful, almost sad as she was realizing she didn't always like the world around her no matter how hard she tried to see the sunshine. She- and Bob- realize life does have a lot to offer in "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep." And to say nothing of how amazing it was to hear these ladies sing- in fact the entire cast more than once brought a tear to my eye with their beautiful harmonies. Front row seats to this magical wonderland was great, and on opening night, the cast was ready to perform. This show is a wonderful tradition and evokes memories of warm holiday, and the jazzy tunes and ensemble dancing was truly a delight to watch, especially in the title song, "White Christmas" and "Blue Skies." The best number, "I Love a Piano," opens the second act with Phil and Judy and the ensemble doing an entire song and dance tap routine, while sitting down! The show ends with the finale of "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," a song you'll be singing for days afterwards. 

Photo Courtesy of Kimmel CenterSince this show is set during a wartime, it is a comfort to see people making happy memories. We can draw a parallel even now, with the bad economy and the war, yet we are finding happiness in everyday life. Quite honestly, they don't make shows like this anymore- swanky glamour, tailored 50's costumes, and love that is pure and sweet. Yeah, I know, it's a musical, but get out and see Irving Berlin's White Christmas at the Academy of Music during it's 2-week engagement- it's happy, upbeat, fun, gets you in the Christmas mood and there's even a surprise for the audience at the end. So much energy and life has suffused this cast, you have to see it. 

For tickets, go to http://www.kimmelcenter.org/events/ or call 215-731-3333. White Christmas runs from November 24 to Sunday, December 6, 2009. You can also go to http://www.whitechristmasthemusical.com/intro.html for more info on the show.