Irving Berlin’s White Christmas The Musical, a Holiday Rush We Can All Enjoy

When you begin to see productions of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas The Musical” pop up on the theatre scene, you know we are well into the thick of the holiday season. Such is the case with the Berkshire Theatre Group’s production currently on the boards at the stunning Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. For starters, the Colonial lends its own special magic with a combination of opulence, gilded beauty, and warmth that makes it the perfect setting for this holiday classic. Classic for the stage show may be a bit of a stretch. While it is based on the 1954 movie classic of the same name, the stage version didn’t actually come to be until 2000, landing on Broadway in 2008. It has been brightening our hearts somewhere annually ever since.

The cast of BTG’s White Christmas, 2021.
Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware.

What both the movie and the stage show have in common is the general storyline. Successful song and dance duo formed out of wartime friendship, Capt. Bob Wallace (Michael Wartella) and Pvt. Phil Davis (Michael Starr) team up to help their beloved General Henry Waverly (David Adkins) from financial ruin of his retirement inn Vermont by rousing the troupes of the 151st division getting them to assemble on Christmas at the Inn to save the day. Along the way, the two fall in love with a talented and beautiful sister act.

The real stand out in the show is it has been packed with classic Irving Berlin: many numbers from the movie and several added to the stage such as Blue Skies, I Love a Piano, and How Deep is the Ocean.

Berkshire has gathered an impressive production group headed by Director Gregg Edelman, the 4 time Tony nominee, Musical Director Ross Patterson, and Choreographers Gerry McIntyre and Bryan Thomas Hunt. The three do an admirable job moving the 20-person cast through their paces.

Michael Starr and Michael Wartella in BTG’s White Christmas, 2021.
Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware.

The two “big” production numbers, Blue Skies and I Love a Piano give each of the leads a chance to shine, Wartella and Starr respectively lead a wonderfully talented ensemble through some intricate dance routines. Both have admirable acting chops. Starr is the vocal and dance powerhouse of the two. Wartella comes through vocally strong in the more quiet moments, Count Your Blessings and How Deep Is Your Love. The Haynes sisters, played by real-life sisters, Alanna and Claire Saunders capture every moment they have as a true triple threat squared, acting dancing, and singing, whether in the reflective moments on stage or singing the comic iconic Sisters.

Adkins gives us a General, facing his own self-perceived uselessness, a nuanced performance of compassion and warmth beneath his army bluster. His granddaughter played by 14-year-old Berkshire native Madison Cyrulik clearly has a future in the theatre if she so chooses. David Sharkey as Ezekial Foster will have you laughing out loud as the New Englander of very few words and deadpan delivery.

Claire Saunders and Alanna Saunders in BTG’s White Christmas, 2021.
Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware.

Allison Briner Dardenne is Martha Watson, the Inn’s “Staff Sgt.” who constantly tries to save the General from himself and all the vagaries of the outside world. Her comic timing is perfect and when she opens her mouth to sing she can blow the roof off the Colonial. With a belting voice that would have made Ethel Merman proud, she is knockout on the stage.

Costume Designer Elivia Bovenzi Blitz has done a yeoman’s job recreating many of the iconic costumes of the movie and beautifully re-imagining others. Perhaps the only weakness in this production would be the set design. With the exception of the barn, Randall Parsons’s sets never reach the warmth the production deserves. They are serviceable but not much more.

Timothy Gulan, David Adkins, Michael Wartella and Michael Starr in BTG’s White Christmas.
Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware.

In all, everyone is there because the show is a feel-good holiday rush… and in these times, who couldn’t use that. The music will absolutely have you leaving the theater singing or humming. Berkshire Theatre Group has given the region a sumptuous holiday gift all wrapped up in a stunning Colonial Theatre package.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas The Musical is at The Colonial Theatre 111 South Street Pittsfield, MA For more information: www.BerkshireTheatreGroup.org or contact the box office at 413-997-4444.

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