Front Row Reviews

“White Christmas”: A vibrant remake of a classic

In the midst of today’s chaotic world, Coastal Repertory Theatre’s production of “White Christmas” swiftly draws us into the holiday spirit. The infectious “feel-good” atmosphere is accentuated by an impressive multi-set, meticulously crafted by Doug McCurdy. The production radiates vitality through its blend of songs, music, and dance. We are enveloped in a wondrous and heartwarming reimagining of the 1954 film classic.

The narrative follows two World War II veterans, critical Bob Wallace (sincere William Rhea) and the gregarious Phil Davis (versatile Brandon Savage), who find post-war success as entertainers. Rhea and Savage breathe life into the show with their impressive singing and dancing skills. Both men are Hallmark believable.

The tale introduces two spirited sisters, independent Judy Haynes (romantic Lindsey Schulz) and pragmatic Betty (agile Kathleen Kenealy). Both deliver the enchanting song, “Sisters,” captivating us and capturing the attention of the men.

Together, the four embark on a journey to a struggling Vermont inn, owned by their former commanding officer, stern General Henry Waverly (stiff Matthew Mattei). Groupies Rhonda (Jessica Nordby) and Rita (Gia Mirra), a sexy and limber duo, playfully fawn over Phil providing delightful background entertainment.

The group orchestrates a musical extravaganza in a bid to rescue the financially beleaguered inn. The foursome’s seek the help of ex-soldier, Talent Agent Sheldrake (Alfredo Mendoza) to enlist the General’s troops and attract customers. The lively innkeeper, Martha (dramatic Deborah Joves), injects energy into the play, countering the stern demeanor of General Waverly. She raises the roof with “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy.”

The play evokes post-war military memories, loyalties, and brotherhood akin to family bonds.  

The narrative unfolds with romantic entanglements, comical misunderstandings, and heartwarming moments, all woven seamlessly based on Irving Berlin’s timeless music. Noteworthy performances include the enchanting “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” featuring Rhea and Kenealy, and the invigorating “I Love a Piano” with Davis and Schulz. A surprising famous number, “Blue Skies,” sung by Bob and the ensemble, adds to the play’s charm.

The tap dancing in the second act is a highlight not to be missed, skillfully choreographed by Jennifer Tosetti.  I enjoyed seeing an ensemble of all ages and skills in a community theatre, a fully rounded arena of many talented people.

Directors Nancy Martin and Emily York adeptly manage the tight ensemble of 23 members, delivering authentic character portrayals. The spot-on Music Direction/Sound design by Rick Reynolds contribute to all the performances. See “White Christmas,” and create a memorable holiday experience for your family.

“White Christmas” by David Ives and Paul Blake, music, Irving Berlin, directed by Nancy Martin and Emily York, Coastal Rep Theatre, Info: to December 17, 2023

Cast: Alyson Chilton, Greet Jaspaert, Deborah Joves, Kathleen Kenealy, Calyx Liu, Grace Liu, Zeph Lodwick, Greg Lynch, Matthew Mattei, Anath Infanzon-Marin, David Martinez, Alfredo Mendoza, Gia Mirra, Jessica Nordby, Tom Poeschi, William Rhea, Brandon Savage, Lindsey Schulz, Madelyn Simon, Joe Steely, Terry Weissman, Kathleen Kenealy

Photo by Joyce Morrell