Thursday, December 20, 2012

White Christmas by Irving Berlin, Zach Theatre, December 5 - 30

AustinLiveTHeatre review
White Christmas Zach Theatre Austin TX

by Michael Meigs

The Zach throws everything it's got at White Christmas, and it shows.  Nick Demos' inventive choreography is on display; Allen Robertson conducts a vigorous nine-piece orchestra tucked out of sight beneath the stage; invited stars Matthew Redden and Matt Gibson make a plausible buddy team, even though they don't much resemble Bing and Donald.  Our Meredith McCall is there as the older, wiser and more angular of the hoofin' Haynes Sisters nightclub act, and the fifteen-person chorus includes such accomplished local talent as Joshua Denning and Sara Burke.

The Zach prides itself on the valiantly earned status as a significant regional theatre.  Earning those stripes and getting the awesome 425-seat Topfer Theatre built have taken decades of planning and work. But now Artistic Director Dave Steakley faces a new challenge -- the Zach has got that impressive magic box on South Lamar but how are they going to get enough rears onto those seats in order to make sure that it's a viable concern?

White Christmas Zach Theatre Austin TX
Matthew Redden with Lara Wright and Laura Galt (image: Kirk R. Tuck)
One approach is to dust off the standards and make them new.  Harvey, the one about the six-foot invisible white rabbit, is on the roster for late spring.  It was a play before it was a movie.
And here we have a real live version of Irving Berlin's 1954 film, a nostalgia vehicle even back then, firmly grounded on the 1930's and 1940's cinema musicals themed as "Come on, kids, let's put on a show!" and offering Depression-era escapist visions of the glamor of New York nightclubs.  Both the buddies and the sisters are show-biz entertainers, fetched away by chance and misdirection to the Vermont inn that good ol' General Henry Waverly sank his army savings and pension into, and by gosh, they decide to support the Old Man by putting on a show in the barn and inviting all of their war-time buddies who served under the Old Man, along with their families.  As a surprise to the General, of course.  And don't forget that sure-fire formula "Boy gets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl again" (oh, it was all just a misunderstanding).

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