Monday, November 24, 2008

White Christmas: Were Reviews Merry And Bright?

White Christmas: Were Reviews Merry And Bright?

Director Walter Bobbie and choreographer Randy Skinner may have been dreaming of Irving Berlin's White Christmas for countless years, but now that the production is finally on Broadway, did it fulfill the critics' wildest dreams? Well, not quite.

The limited run holiday tuner opened last evening at the Great White Way's Marquis Theatre. Based on the classic 1954 film, the musical features Irving Berlin's timeless score. White Christmas stars Stephen Bogardus, Jeffry Denman, Kerry O'Malley, Meredith Patterson and Melody Hollis.

Saying the show "makes for a bright evening," John Simon of Bloomberg appears to be alone among critics in getting caught up, at least a little, in the spirit of the season: "A problem with Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is that it cannot quite make up its mind whether to cheekily parody the mildly idiotic movie, or sweetly swoon over its antique innocence.... You might think that great songs can salvage anything, but many of the songs here are lesser Berlin. Still, there are those marvelously evocative Louizos sets and dazzlingly outrageous Robbins costumes for us to feast on. And Skinner’s clever dances, which, with far more limited personnel, still manage to lustily evoke the grandeur of Busby Berkeley and glory of Hermes Pan."

Complaining that "the orchestra sounds tinny and the production cries out for a smaller theater or a bigger chorus," Newsday's Linda Winer provides the first of many a pan: "White Christmas is a reasonable facsimile of what it's meant to be -- a manipulation of the sentimental holiday marketplace that does not disturb the seasonal equilibrium with a bubble of original thought.... [T]his is a straightforward, old-fashioned book-musical about a famous song-and-dance duo that falls for a couple of song-and-dance sisters while doing a good deed fora retired Army general whose Vermont inn is deep in debt. At Christmas."

Proclaiming that the show should "have an audience advisory -- for diabetics," USA Today's Elysa Gardner gives two and a half out of four stars: "Adapting the screenplay, David Ives and Paul Blake have left no sentimental stone unturned.... What this stage version does not have, obviously, is the cast that made the original 'White Christmas' an enduring favorite. It's unfair to compare any singing actor to Bing Crosby, but in this case, it's impossible not to. Stephen Bogardus brings undeniable grace and charm to the role of Bob Wallace, but he can't overcome the thinness of the libretto and the slickness of Walter Bobbie's direction."

Calling it "efficient but bland," The New York Times's Charles Isherwood was not finding much cheer: "[Y]ou’d have to be in a desperately, even pathologically nostalgic mood -- trawling the Internet in the wee hours for VHS copies of Lawrence Welk holiday specials, say -- to derive much joy from the stage retread of 'White Christmas,' a synthetically cozy trip down memory lane.... But the leading roles are really just place holders for star personalities, and none of the principals brings much in the way of wattage to their assignments. The romantic heat generated by both couples put together wouldn’t melt a snowflake."

Labeling the production as "a little creaky," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News awards three out of five stars in his surprisingly thin review: "But as a holiday entertainment, it's light and bright and boasts some great production numbers."

Concluding that the musical "is artificial enough to bring out the inner Scrooge in anyone," New York Post's Frank Scheck ebeneezers with his two-star review: "[I]t's more than a little disappointing that the Broadway production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas is so lacking in genuine Yuletide spirit.... [T]he book (by David Ives and Paul Blake) is lumbering and unamusing, and while the four stars -- Stephen Bogardus, Jeffry Denman, Kerry O'Malley and Meredith Patterson -- ably fulfill their singing and dancing requirements, they lack the outsize personalities necessary to make us care about their cardboard characters."

Charging that the show "coasts along on the strength of its melodious numbers and sparkling visuals," Variety's David Rooney also offers a bah-humbug: "[T]his somewhat mechanical show feels like a road production staffed with mostly second-tier talent.... [T]he show makes little effort to fortify the movie's flimsy plot or disguise the contrived misunderstanding that fuels its central conflict.... Director Walter Bobbie's biggest hurdle is getting through the mummified book scenes, with their corny jokes. Aiding him, however, is that with 22 songs stuffed into two hours and change, it's never a long wait until the orchestra strikes up again, and the drippy dialogue gives way to polished -- if not quite dazzling -- vocals."

Will all this matter when New Yorkers and tourists alike are desperately seeking any kind of cheer, holiday or otherwise, this season? Perhaps not. With box office capacity in the mid 80 percentile, it may be some of the only green on Broadway this December.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Technorati blog directory Blog Directory & Search engine
Visitor Map

Powered by FeedBurner