LEHI — It is a mighty task for a community theater company to take on a production full of many high energy dance numbers, multiple set and costume changes, and over twenty musical numbers. The stakes are even higher when this said production’s storyline just so happens to come from a beloved classic Christmas movie. I held my breath a little for the Lehi City Arts Council and director Colleen Carrasco as I watched Irving Berlin‘s White Christmas. However, I’m pleased to say they put on an entertaining and fun rendition of this well-known Christmas production.
For those who missed out somewhere along in their childhood and have never seen the film White Christmas, the story takes place in the 1950’s. Two veteran World War II army pals Bob Wallace (Michael Carrasco) and Phil Davis (Kris Higley) who have made it big in show business with their musical act. As a favor to a friend, the two go check out the musical act of sisters Betty Haynes (Julia Patch Jolley) and Judy Haynes (Celeste Childs). Both men find themselves smitten by the sisters, and Phil gets the bright idea to accompany the girls to their Christmas gig at an inn in Pine Tree, Vermont. Upon their arrival Bob and Phil are surprised to find that the owner of the inn is no other than General Waverly (Jay Breckenridge), the much respected and admired commanding officer of their company they served in when in the army. The duo soon finds out that the inn is on the brink of financial ruin, so they decide to put together a musical production with the Haynes sisters and invite those from their past army company to come to the inn with their families. Much music, misunderstands, and falling in love ensues. While the stage version of White Christmas follows the plot of the movie closely, there are some changes in the stage script (written by David Ives and Paul Blake) and a handful of songs added.
I thought the whole cast did a solid job in their performance. I was particularly impressed by Michael Carrasco and Julia Patch Jolley’s performances. Carrasco had big shoes to fill as he played the part that was performed by Bing Crosby in the movie. I felt both Carrasco and Jolley portrayed the love cynics who find themselves falling for each other very well. My favorite musical number of the whole evening was their duet of “Love and the Weather.” Their voices blended beautifully, and they communicated the emotion of the song: two people who have given up on love.
I thought Kris Higley and Celeste Childs shined in their song and dance number “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,” which was the best dance number of the evening. I was impressed with choreographer, Jenna Bronson, for creating a variety of dances, ranging from the waltz to tap dance, on a small stage. While not all the dance numbers were flawless, they were performed with energy by the cast and ensemble members.
What I was most impressed with from the whole evening were the set and costumes. There were many set changes, and each set looked very charming and realistic for the small theater that housed this production. I particularly enjoyed the use of large screens that were above the audience on either side to the stage. When characters Bob and Phil were portrayed as performing on the Ed Sullivan show, the performance was projected above the audience in black and white on the screens, so it felt like watching their performance on an old television. Another gem was the barn set, which felt authentic and added to the scene of the inn performance. The costumes were gorgeous, and I envied some of the dresses that Jolley and Childs wore. Just like the many set changes, there were also many costume changes. It seemed like a huge operation to outfit the cast and ensemble in multiple scenes. The costumes did a great job in representing both the 1950’s and each character’s personality.
My biggest complaint about this production was the sound. There was static in various parts of the musical, particularly in the first act when the men are meeting the sisters for the first time at the night club. I missed a lot of what was being said as the microphones shorted in and out during this section of the production. The music accompanying the cast felt much too loud for me for the duration of the production. It unfortunately drowned out some of the supporting actors in their moments to shine with their own solos. This partially may be due to where I was sitting, which was to the side of the stage. However, I had difficulty hearing characters Martha Watson (Ramona Samuels) and Susan (Molli Eaton) in their solos during the song “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” though I could tell they were singing with all their hearts.
Overall, the Lehi City Arts Council put on an enjoyable show that is perfect for the holidays. The musical ran a little over 3 hours, so it may be best to leave the little ones at home. The production seemed too long for the kids who were in attendance.