Saturday, November 17, 2012

REVIEW: "White Christmas" from Rising Star Productions Takes You Down Memory Lane


Longview's Rising Star Productions presents a stage adaptation of the beloved film musical "White Christmas" which starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. Music by Irving Berlin and a book by David Ives and Paul Blake.

The Story: Bob Wallace and Phil Davis are army veterans who have created a successful vaudeville act following the end of World War II. They meet the lovely Haynes sisters and follow them up to a Vermont lodge that just happens to be owned by their old army commander, General Waverly. Learning that the inn is on the brink of failure, Bob and Phil step in with a plan to save the inn, and the dignity of their beloved commander.

Includes the songs we all love: White Christmas, Blue Skies, Sisters, We'll Follow the Old Man, and many others.

Jueanne Meyers, Eric Gerdlund and Laura Ouellette Tack
What to expect: The movie "White Christmas" has long been a holiday favorite. If you haven't seen it in your lifetime, no matter what your age, you've probably been living under a snow bank somewhere in the frozen north. It is a great musical right up there with "Singing in the Rain," therefore your expectations are probably rather high.

Well, we oft need to come down off our high horse and fall in love with the efforts of community theater. Hollywood has the best of the best and one is hard-pressed to find that kind of talent on a local level. Live local theater is a great treat and it's fun to see local talent pour their heart and soul into good family-friendly entertainment.

That's what you're going to get here. Good people doing good things; maybe not the best, but good none-the-less. And, honestly it's quite fun and refreshing to see such a familiar show in a new light.

Peter Ouellette and Eric
Gerdlund perform "Sisters"
What you will and won't get: You won't get Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Get over it. You won't get a soaring orchestra delivering Irving Berlin's fantastic music. And you won't get glamorous sets. What you will get is a fine performance with splendid piano accompaniment (by Greg Moore), some great costumes (by Jueanne Meyers) and good performances. Plus, you'll have a good time.

Frankly, it's quite amazing what Rising Star has done with a common mall retail space. The pipe and drape "theater" is pretty cool. The simple lighting--consisting of eight ellipsoidals, two Fresnels and about a eighteen hardware store floods lamps--more than adequately lights the show. The dances (choreographed by Kristi Larson) are good and the direction (by Laurel Moore) is very well-conceived. There were no technical problems.

Sure, I can see ways to improve the show. I would have liked to see some kind of snow effect in the finale. While that number was the show's best, it was still a let down when "the barn doors are opened." I feel the the train ride could have used some simulated motion (by the actors) and effects (lighting and audio). I also wish the sets weren't so simple and that the changes didn't take so long to load.

The dance ensemble/chorus with Ouellette Tack (center).
What's really appreciated is how this show was projected so well to the audience without the use of mics (rare these days). All performers did a good job of reaching the back of the intimate theater with their voices, with the exception of Jueanne Meyers who is a tad "soften spoken" when it comes to singing compared to the others (though she has a lovely voice).

Norm Vader as Gen. Waverly
The Cast: The leads sang well enough, though the women were superior to the men by leaps and bounds. Jueanne Meyers (as Betty Haynes; the Clooney role), Laura Ouellette Tack (as Judy Haynes), and Stephanie Biwer (as Martha Watson) were all quality vocalists. All cast members handled the dances well enough, though the tap sequence, while not Fosse and Glover, approached greatness.

Stephanie Biwer as
Martha Watson
Peter Ouellette played Bob Wallace (the Crosby role), Eric Gerdlund played Phil Davis (the Kaye role) and performed nicely. Standout performances were given by Biwer (in the Mary Wickes role) who was exceptional in every way. She is a very good and amusing comic actress, much like Wickes. Norm Vader as General Waverly was also quite good. His gruff, yet warm, character is nicely played and the moment he realizes that he is standing before his platoon is in a moment strikingly real and moving.

All Performances of "White Christmas" at Three Rivers Mall (near Macy's) in Kelso, Washington. ONLY seven remaining performances over five days! 

Park in front near the Three Rivers logo across from Pier 1 Imports for easiest access back to your car after the performance.

Dates and Times: Sat., Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 1, 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.; and Sat., Dec. 8, 2 and 7:30 p.m.

Ticket Prices for All Shows: $10.00 adults, $5.00 children (under 16), $8.00 Seniors (65+); click here for tickets.

Review by Gregory E. Zschomler
All photographs provided.

No comments:

Post a Comment