Dallas — Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is magic.
Seriously, did you notice the colder temperatures that started coming in when the musical opened on Tuesday at the Music Hall at Fair Park?
And even though North Texas got the shaft on snow, the Dallas Summer Musicals season opener brings enough winter dazzle (including some white stuff) to spread some serious holiday cheer. Based on the 1954 film, the stage version has all the favorite film tunes plus more by Irving Berlin. With book by David Ives and Paul Blake and musical direction by Michael Horsley, the production boasts a phenomenal cast, stellar dancing, and plenty of glitz and glamour.
World War II veterans-turned-entertainers Bob Wallace (Sean Montgomery) and Phil Davis (Jeremy Benton) meet up with performing sisters Betty Haynes (Kerry Conte) and Judy Haynes (Kelly Sheehan) and wind up in snowy Vermont.
At least they’re supposed to. Vermont weather takes a cue from North Texas and has a heat wave, so the inn which hosts the sister act is scrambling for business. The lodge is also under the ownership of the men’s wartime general, Henry Waverly (Conrad John Schuck), so in a heartfelt gesture of gratitude and goodwill, the group concocts a generous scheme to bring some Christmas joy to the place.
Randy Skinner directs and choreographs, and the dancing truly stands out in a league of its own, due to an impeccably precise ensemble. “Let Yourself Go” finds them giddily hoofing across the stage and maneuvering through dizzying turns, while they take on a sultry classic jazz number for “Blue Skies.” “I Love a Piano” has them articulately tapping while sitting (not an easy feat) and finishes with a good, old-fashioned chorus line. Benton and Sheehan simply stun with their physicality and choreographic execution, with spirited singing to match.
Vocally, the cast brings some standout moments. Makayla Joy Connolly surprises everyone as a belting little Susan Waverly, and Karen Ziemba delivers a sensational, show-stopping “I’m Happy.” Conte displays a passionate, yet terse Betty, but her voice maintains a clogged sound that doesn’t mix well with Sheehan in “Sisters” and overpowers in “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me.”
Schuck proves to be one of the better Generals with his gruff, ornery demeanor that easily melts into one of heartfelt devotion.
Mic issues are fairly minimal, with a bit of fuzziness and crackling, and the ensemble sounds a bit quiet when they begin singing in each of their numbers. Overall, the balance turns out decently, with a swinging orchestra made of mostly local musicians.
White Christmas is typically the better of DSM’s holiday shows, and it’s drifting away fast, so snag your tickets while you can.