“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” at Wharton Center, East Lansing (Review) is a Dream

Okay, let me state this for the record: I have seen White Christmas, the musical, 7 times now – between San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, and East Lansing. I love this show, and am not going to review the show itself…This is the 2009 Tour that made a one-week stop at the Wharton Center at MSU, East Lansing.

The show is a dream – and the cast is one of the best I’ve seen since the initial production in San Francisco (still my favorite cast – but maybe just because I saw them first and could brag for a year until other people started to see the show in it’s season incarnations). Stephen Bogardus and Kerry O’Malley reprise their roles from the NYC 2008 production. David Elder and Megan Sikora play their dancing-fool sidekicks, and they are dandy together. This production features the best-danced “I Love a Piano” that I have seen in four different incarnations. The Elder/Sikora “Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” is perfection. The tap dancing throughout this production is spectacular by the entire cast. Stephen Bogardus brings charm and style to his role, while Kerry O’Malley is just plain lovable.

What is currently a drought of productions and jobs on Broadway has resulted in one of the most talented dancing casts in ages — there are folks in this show that normally play leads in other musicals. It all lends a wonderfully polished perfection to the show as a whole. Lorna Luft makes a fine Martha Watson and sings her heart out in her big show-stopper number. Her stardom in no way overshadows any of the cast members, and she appears to be having the time of her life.

For those who saw the show at the Fox Theatre, be warned that it’s a different creature at Wharton Center — featured as part of it’s Broadway tour season, the performances are near sold-out throughout the run. There appear to be balcony and scattered rear orchestra seats available for some performances this week — but don’t expect you can walk up to the box office like you could at the Fox and just get great seats. Not the case here.

For those not in the know – this is just a holiday treat — a big, colorful, Randy Skinner tap-dance filled extravaganza. It could really play at any time, not just Christmas time — it’s a full-blown Broadway musical with spectacular dancing and a fine familiar book and score. Filled with classics like “White Christmas”, “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”, “Snow”, “Blue Skies”, “Sisters”, “I’ve Got My love to Keep Me Warm” and a half-dozen others. It moves at lightning pace, and it’s a musical lovers musical, much like “42nd Street” or “Babes in Arms”.

Go, have fun, and see a spectacular cast. On a final note — beware the weather. I don’t know which was more exciting on Tuesday night — opening night at White Christmas, or the spectacularly dangerous drive home to Ann Arbor for an hour in some of the worst driving weather you could imagine — snow, turning to sleet, turning to ice. I hate driving, and I particularly hated driving home after the show. Luckily I had the White Christmas cast album on my iPhone to play through the car stereo system to keep me in a good mood. Check the weather reports before you head out this week. I leave for Florida tomorrow, or I would have seen the show a second time if I could. But I’m glad I will be out of this weather in less than 24 hours for a week. For those of you left behind in this Michigan weather — go enjoy this “warm cup of hot chocolate” musical. Go see a Broadway show.

And that’s the view from Ann Arbor this week.

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