Reviewer: Janet Martineau
Venue: Midland Center for the Arts
First, the bad news. Might as well get it out of the way.
Before it even opened on Friday night, the Midland Center for the Arts production of “White Christmas” had sold out all 11 of its performances.
So, if this review makes you want to see it, you are kind of out of luck.
The acting was phenomenal.
The choreography was phenomenal.
The singing was phenomenal.
The direction was phenomenal.
The costuming was phenomenal.
And the orchestra was phenomenal.
It did the 1954 classic movie, starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye with Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, proud. No small accomplishment that.
Midland brought in a guest bicoastal director/choreographer, Emma Lou DeLaney, to spearhead this production, as well as a couple of other “professionals.” She has quite the litany as a director as well as being an actor, singer and dance instructor.
Clearly, she knows her stuff. She made the 14 members in the ensemble dance like they have danced all their life, as well as the leads. Loved the little asides that took place at the front of the stage and up the aisles. There was a fun screwball comedy chase scene that could have gone wrong but didn’t. From start to finish, the highly visual show moved slick and quick.
There is no way we can mention every cast member because there are 25 of them. So here are a few who really impressed us.
Samuel J. Nowak in the Danny Kaye role looked like he was living his dream. Enjoying every millisecond with a radiant and engaged expression and all-out performance. Besides being a fabulous singer and actor, he learned to tap dance for this role. And to think that just a few weeks ago, he was the suspicious and agitated priest in the hard-hitting drama “Doubt: A Parable” at the center.
Brooke M. Gomez in the Clooney role and Megan Krause Meyer in the Vera-Ellen role. Oh my God those two can sing. Their “Sisters” duet was a seller. Gomez also was living her part with every gesture. And Meyer tap danced her heart out in “I I Love a Piano.”
Midland veteran Trena Winans as the Vermont inn’s busybody receptionist with a surprising past. Dear God again, she can soooo sing and dance and drop a comedic line and live in the moment.
When Winans teamed up with Gomez and Meyer on “Falling Outbof Love Can Be Fun” it was delicious.
Garam Lee as the granddaughter of inn’s owner. What a dynamite little girl with a pretty substantial role, especially when when she rocked her solo on “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy.”
Enter Aja Jade Philpot as the frustrated and panicky stage manager named Mike… and who in “Doubt” was the MOTHER of a troubled child. In “White Christmas” they (along with Winans) was fantastic comic relief …and also so tense we got tense too..
AJ King who nearly brought the house down as the hunched over, not-too-bright stage hand whose dialogue was mostly “Yep” delivered with exquisite timing.
And we can’t express enough how fabulous fabulous fabulous the 14 ensemble members were in their dancing particularly and acting overall.
Jim Hohmeyer was in charge of the 13-member orchestra playing the Irving Berlin classics. Yes, indeed, music to our ears they were.
If there was a bit of a surprise, given Midland’s history, it is that the set design was a little amateurish looking.