Irving Berlin Classic Christmas Musical Comes to Syracuse Stage

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By Craig Thornton

 Irving Berlin’s Musical White Christmas Delivers Romance, Comedy and Holiday Cheer


Performances Thanksgiving Weekend through December 30

The title song alone is a celebration and a reminder of a time when the simplest pleasures mattered most and having a big heart was genuinely considered a virtue. Two successful showmen join forces to help out their old army commander. Along the way they find, lose, and find romance, have plenty of laughs, and demonstrate what it means to be loyal. The score is filled with favorites—"Happy Holiday," "Sisters," "Blue Skies," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,"—and the choreography calls for plenty of tap.

This photograph is from the Paramount Pictures Film, not the stage muscial.

 Based on the Paramount Pictures film, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, the Syracuse Stage production of White Christmas will be directed by Paul Barnes (The Miracle Worker, 2011) with musical direction by Christopher Drobny (Caroline, or Change, 2012) and choreography by David Wanstreet. White Christmas runs November 23—December 30 in the Archbold Theatre at Syracuse Stage, 820 East Genesee Street. Tickets, $30-$54 for adults and $20 for age 18 and under, are available at the Syracuse Stage Box Office, 315-443-3275 or www.SyracuseStage.org.

MORE ABOUT THE SHOW

With 175 costumes, 900 costume pieces and 125 shoes outfitting a cast of 30, White Christmas is one of the largest and most visually spectacular productions to date at Syracuse Stage. As with all Syracuse Stage productions, everything appearing on stage has been created by resident, local artists in the scene shop, costume shop and props shop, and in the areas of lighting and sound.

 Featured in the cast of White Christmas are eight professional actors with significant Broadway and regional theatre credits: Zakiya Young as Betty Haynes (Broadway: Stick Fly, The Little Mermaid; Regional: Aida at the Kauffman Center in Mo.), Denis Lambert as Bob Wallace (National Tour: Phil Davis in White Christmas; Elvis Presley in Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Syracuse Stage), Craig Waletzko as Phil Davis (Broadway and National Tours: Guys and Dolls, Young Frankenstein, Spamalot, Steel Pier and Gypsy), Mary Michael Patterson as Judy Haynes (Broadway: Hope Harcourt in Anything Goes), Mary Jo Mecca as Martha Watson (Regional: Superior Donuts at Geva Theatre Center, Little House on the Prairie at the Guthrie Theatre), John Shuman as Ezekiel Foster/Snoring Man (Broadway: La Cage Aux Folles and 13 Rue de L’Amour), James Van Treuren (Broadway: The Scarlet Pimpernel; Caroline, or Change at Syracuse Stage) and Duke Lafoon as Ralph Sheldrake (It’s A Wonderful Life at Westchester Broadway Theatre, Monica the Musical at Manhattan Theatre Club).

 A 20-member ensemble, comprised of students from Syracuse University’s Department of Drama, portrays additional characters and is featured in several large-scale dance and choral numbers. Completing the cast is local, 13-year-old actress Jacqueline Baum as Susan (last seen at Syracuse Stage as Helen Keller in the 2011 production of The Miracle Worker).

 

 

 SPECIAL EVENTS THROUGHOUT THE RUN

 Food Drive - Nov. 23-Dec. 30

Patrons visiting Syracuse Stage this holiday season are asked to please bring a non-perishable food item that will be donated to the food pantry at Grace Episcopal Church on Madison Street. Suggested items include: grits, pancake mix, dried beans, canned vegetables and spaghetti sauce.

 Live in the Sutton Series - FRI, Nov. 30

A post-show party in the Sutton Pavilion following the 8 p.m. opening night performance. Live music by Jazz vocalist Nancy Kelly.

 Prologue

Join us for a free, intimate, insightful and entertaining pre-show talk led by members of the cast. One hour prior to curtain.

·         SUN, Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. in Room 141

·         SAT, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. in the Sutton Pavilion

·         THURS, Dec. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Sutton Pavilion

 Wednesday @ 1 Lecture Series - WED, Dec. 5

Peabody Award winning broadcaster and critic Michael Lasser's talks about "Irving Berlin: The Unlikeliest Genius" at 1 p.m. in the Sutton Pavilion before the 2 p.m. matinee performance

 Open Captioning Series - WED, Dec. 5 & SUN, Dec. 16 at 2 p.m.

Open captioned 2 p.m. performance

 Sign Interpreted Series - SAT, Dec. 8 at 3 p.m.

 Happy Hour THURS, Dec. 13 from 6-7:15 p.m.

Half-price drinks and complimentary desserts from Provisions Bakery and Speach Family Candy Shoppe in the Sutton Pavilion. Plus, get a taste of our Signature Drink: Wintery Mix (Creme de Menthe, Bailey's and Creme de Cocoa, garnished with a candy cane).

 Audio Described Series - SAT, Dec. 15 at 3 p.m.

Patrons who are blind or visually impaired may pick up an infrared audio receiver upon arriving at the theatre, and during the performance a live narrator will verbalize visual details about the actors and scenic elements. Due to limited availability, audio receivers must be reserved in advance through the box office, 315-443-3275.

 Actor Talkback Series - SUN, Dec. 16

Meet the actors after the 7 p.m. performance

MORE ABOUT THE SHOW

 

 Directing White Christmas is Paul Barnes, who also returns to Syracuse Stage after working previously on The Miracle Worker. According to Barnes, White Christmas offers much for audiences to love.

 White Christmas—the song, the movie, the stage play—reaches an audience in many, many ways. It’s a beautiful story. I’m particularly drawn to it under what I think of as the two large umbrellas that encompass White Christmas. One has to do with what happened in WWII: a general who was heroic in the extreme, and now has fallen on hard times. So much of the story is about getting the men to come to his aid, which they do,” said Barnes.

 “Then the other chief story is about show business. Show business is so much a part of American life and the American ethos. This play, this musical, is a real love letter to show business. Within that there are lots of love stories between people, people finding their way to each other through song and dance. In that respect, there are so many heartwarming and uplifting elements of the story that brighten our spirits and lighten our lives.”

 At the heart of White Christmas is the title song. “White Christmas” was first sung by Bing Crosby for the 1942 film Holiday Inn. Irving Berlin expected another song from the film to be the breakout hit. However, when Armed Forces Radio included “White Christmas” to its rotation, the song struck a chord with GI’s spending their Christmas overseas.

 “White Christmas” won the 1942 Academy Award for Best Song of the Year and is the most recorded Christmas song of all time with over 500 different cover versions by varied artists such as Kenny Rogers, Babyface, Gloria Estefan, Michael Bolton, Willy Nelson, Garth Brooks, Hanson, Mandy Patinkin, Destiny’s Child, Brooks & Dunn, Barbara Cook, Bette Midler, The Vienna Boys Choir and The Flaming Lips. Bing Crosby’s version is considered the standard, having sold over 100 million copies worldwide.

 In his 101 years, Irving Berlin wrote over 1,000 songs. Berlin’s complete scores for stage include The Cocoanuts, As Thousands Cheer, Louisiana Purchase, Miss Liberty, Mr. President, Call Me Madam and Annie Get Your Gun. Hollywood movie musical scores by Berlin include Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, On the Avenue, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Holiday Inn, This is the Army, Blue Skies, Easter Parade, White Christmas and There’s No Business Like Show Business.

 A private in WWI, Berlin penned “God Bless America” and donated millions in royalties to Army Emergency Relief among other organizations. His patriotism was recognized by President Truman (1945 Army’s Medal of Merit), President Eisenhower (1955 Congressional Gold Medal) and President Ford (1977 Freedom Medal).


 

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Monday, December 22, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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