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“Yesterday, she couldn’t sleep. Today, she won’t eat. She’s in love.”
- Judy Haynes about her sister, Betty, in “White Christmas”
The original movie “White Christmas” was released in 1954 with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye playing the leads. It was the top box office draw of the year handily beating out the next highest grossing film by a wide margin.
“The song ‘White Christmas’ is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide as recorded in Wikipedia.
It’s been a classic Christmas love story ever since. You’ll see it repeated multiple times on television every year during this blessed season. If it doesn’t get you in the mood for Christmas then nothing else will.
Except for maybe this.
“White Christmas” is coming to the Opera House and being put on by the adult section of the Central Kentucky Community Theatre.
The story is about two World War II U.S. Army buddies named Bob Wallace (Eric Diersing) and Phil Davis (Scott Fattizzi). It begins on Christmas Eve, 1944, somewhere in Europe. In a forward area, Capt. Wallace is giving a show to the troops of the 151st Division with the help of Pvt. Davis. The mood is somber as the word has come down that their beloved commanding officer, Major General Thomas F. Waverly (Jerry Effner), is being relieved of command. He arrives for the end of the show and delivers an emotional farewell hoping that one day he will see them all again in a happier time.
Fast forward to 1954.
Bob and Phil make it big in nightclubs, radio and then on Broadway after the war as song and dance men. But despite all that success, Phil becomes concerned that neither have met the right girl and settled down. Bob on the other hand seems to be a confirmed bachelor and likes his situation just as it is.
So Phil makes several clumsy attempts to set Bob and himself up with just about anyone they meet. This includes a couple of comical floozy showgirls named Rita (Haberlin Roberts) and Rhonda (Jenny Begley) (Writer’s note: Yep, it’s that Jenny Begley. I write a couple of hundred religious columns and my daughter ends up a floozy on the stage. Go figure.)
It’s now mid-December in 1954 and the guys receive a letter from their old army pal “Freckle-Faced Haynes, the dog-faced boy,” a former mess sergeant asking them to audition his two sisters playing at a local nightclub in Florida. The guys are intensely loyal to all their former fellow soldiers that served with them in the 151st, so they reluctantly go to the club to audition the act (“Sisters”) of Betty (Robin Humphress) and Judy (Ashley Gilpin).
Bob and Phil are stunned to realize that neither gal looks like their brother “Freckle-Faced Haynes, the dog-faced boy.” In fact, both are beautiful and for the first time ever, Bob is smitten with Betty, while Phil has eyes for Judy.
The girls are headed to a gig they have at the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont. The boys follow only to find out the inn belongs to their former division commander, retired General Waverly. The beloved General is in trouble and about to lose everything he owns with his failing inn. Bob and Phil step into action to save the day.
That’s where I’ll leave you on the story in case you haven’t seen it.
It’s a really good show and has a total of 21 songs, including “White Christmas.” Eric Diersing plays the lead and you might remember him from “Man of La Mancha.” Eric just walks onto a stage and is transformed into whatever character that he plays. He’s so smooth and at ease up there that you sort of leave this world behind and enter into a new reality with him as the guide.
Scott Fattizzi directs most of the plays but this time he even tap dances on top of a table for the crowd. Hey Scott, I did that once myself but it was after having too many beers and the police were not amused. Just kidding.
Jerry Effner plays the gruffest general you’ll ever see. He’d have had Patton lock his heels if they had met. Young Mary Medley, age 11, is blossoming into a real stage pro as the general’s niece.
My favorite player in the show is Tracee Young as Martha Watson (General Waverly’s hotel manager). Tracee has that same quality as Eric in that I find her so believable while she’s in her role and she has a beautiful voice that can really belt out the songs the way you like to hear them.
So if you’re feeling more like Scrooge then Santa you should stop on down at the Opera House and get into the Christmas spirit with this cast of 17 talented local individuals.
You’ll be glad you did and will find yourself singing along to “White Christmas” at the end.
Catch you at the show!
(Writer’s note: The last showings for “White Christmas” will be Saturday (Nov. 9 and 10) at 7 p.m. and on Sunday (Nov. 11) at 2 p.m.)