“White Christmas” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ November 25, 2013


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Many local theaters have become trapped staging the same annual holiday shows like “A Christmas Carols” and “The Nutcracker.”  Fortunately, Phoenix Theatre has introduced a smashing new holiday show, the stage version of the “White Christmas” film.

Two geniuses can be credited with the magic on stage.  Phoenix Theatre artistic director Michael Barnard stages his own unique version, paces it briskly, and makes it fascinating to watch.  No less sharp is Kathy Calahan’s choreography.  Calahan was in the recent Broadway version of Irving Berlin’s classic 1954 film and she re-creates the dances crafted for the show’s New York stage premiere.

This team is aided by attractive scenery and costumes that add the movie’s glamour and colorful holiday quality to the Phoenix Theatre stage.  Alan Ruch smartly conducts a classy orchestra and Phoenix Theatre’s excellent sound system makes the lyrics easily understood.  The final element that makes this show so delightful is a stellar cast.

First a few words about Berlin’s inviting show.  “White Christmas” begins in 1944 at a World War II Army camp on Christmas Eve.  Two entertainers, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, perform a holiday show for fellow soldiers.  Flash forward ten years and these Broadway stars and recording artists do a holiday number on Ed Sullivan’s television show where they meet the Haynes Sisters, Betty and Judy.  Impressed, the guys head to Vermont where the women are to perform.  After predictable plot twists, the four end up in an elaborate Christmas show designed to save the guys’ gruff Army General’s Vermont lodge.

By the finale, the guys have two promising romances and the Inn is saved.  The show is sappy but it’s a joy to watch.  Berlin created a film score but the stage version is augmented with additional hit Berlin tunes.

The production is remarkable.  The cast re-create the familiar roles glowingly.  The two guys are played by Joseph Cannon, a strong Bob, and Peter Marinaro, a spiffy Phil.  Debby Rosenthal’s a superb Betty, the woman who almost loses Bob, and Molly Lajoie is the feet-on-the-ground Judy.  Chris Eriksen is a gruff General with a heart of gold and Johanna Carlisle makes a wonderful Martha, the sharp-witted lady who runs the Inn.

Phoenix Theatre now presents local musical theater productions that rival the best of Broadway and often top the Broadway tours we see at ASU Gammage.  “White Christmas” continues through December 24.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A

One Response to ““White Christmas” – Phoenix Theatre”

  1. Kathy Calahan said:

    Nov 26, 13 at 13:31

    Dear Chris Curcio,
    Thank you so much for the glowing review of White Christmas at The Phoenix Theatre. I am the choreographer of this production and must let you know that the dances are my original creations, not recreations of the broadway production. I was part of the pre-broadway production in San Francisco and enjoyed working with Randy Skinner, but it was an even greater pleasure for me to come up with my own style and moves for this production in Phoenix. I hope to return in the near future to create again!
    All the best,
    Kathy Calahan