News and Tribune

November 25, 2012

WHALEY: Derby Dinner's 'White Christmas' delivers plenty of high points

By CHARLES WHALEY
newsroom@newsandtribune.com

CLARKSVILLE —  For the holiday season Derby Dinner Playhouse’s sparkling, nostalgic version of”Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” has returned to cheer and dazzle with its great score, superb song-and-dance routines, and unabashed appeals to patriotism and romance.

This reincarnation of the classic 1954 film starring Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen smoothly incorporates extra songs from the Berlin catalog with splendid results.

Back again to play ex-Army buddies who make it big as entertainers on the Ed Sullivan Show are Brian Bowman (Bob Wallace) and Matthew Brennan (Phil Davis). They’re matched with show-biz sisters named Haynes — Sarah Ann Koster (Betty) and Julie Evins (Judy) — and find themselves on a train to Vermont to play an engagement at an inn run by their beloved old Army general (David Myers).

The inn has fallen on hard times because there’s no snow and thus no guests. But you can bet that snow falls before the final curtain as the cast sings “White Christmas” and invites the audience to join in.

Once more Carol Tyree Williams is a force of nature as the acerbic Martha Watson, the inn’s concierge and proud member of Busybodies Anonymous.  Her show-stopping belting of “Let Me Sing” and “I’m Happy” is cutely reprised later by 8-year-old Carolyn Kelly Dodd (a standout as youngest orphan Molly in Derby Dinner’s recent “Annie”) as the general’s stage-struck granddaughter.

“Blue Skies” with Bowman, Brennan, and chorus as well as “I Love a Piano” featuring Brennan, Evins, and chorus are spectacular production numbers gorgeous to behold and building to great climaxes under director Lee Buckholz working with choreographer Heather Paige Folsom. Black and white costumes devised by Sharon Murray Harrah complete the wonderful effect.

The wry “Sisters” sung by Koster and Evins as they flutter Sally Rand-type ostrich fans gets a camp treatment later from Bowman and Brennan waving the same fans.

Bowman and Koster do a fine “Love and the Weather”and Brennan and Evins with a quintet glide gracefully through “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing.”

Koster shines in the stoical “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” as does Bowman in “How Deep is the Ocean” which later becomes a duet for them.

 This tap-happy, shamelessly sentimental show, produced by Bekki Jo Schneider, offers yet another delightful song when Williams joins Koster and Evins to advise that “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun.” It’s another high point in a musical that provides many.

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” runs through Dec. 31. For tickets and information, call 812-288-8281, toll free at 877-898-8577, or visit www.derbydinner.com.