In a season dominated by perennial holiday shows about Scrooges and nutcrackers, a national tour aims to offer a less-predictable alternative. The Broadway musical Irving Berlin's White Christmas - choreographed by Columbus native and Broadway pro Randy Skinner - will visit Columbus next week for the first time in its eight-year history, opening on Tuesday and running through Sunday at the Ohio Theatre.
In a season dominated by perennial holiday shows about Scrooges and nutcrackers, a national tour aims to offer a less-predictable alternative.
The Broadway musical Irving Berlin’s White Christmas — choreographed by Columbus native and Broadway pro Randy Skinner — will visit Columbus next week for the first time in its eight-year history, opening on Tuesday and running through Sunday at the Ohio Theatre.
“This is a fresh take on a holiday show,” director Norb Joerder said. “ White Christmas is not as traditional as A Christmas Carol or all the Scrooge musicals out there. “While a lot of people remember the movie dearly as one of their favorites, a lot of young people don’t know it at all — but they get so excited when they hear Irving Berlin’s iconic tunes.”
Among the Berlin standards in the stage adaptation of the 1954 movie musical: Blue Skies, Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep), Happy Holiday, How Deep Is the Ocean, I Love a Piano and the beloved title song, Bing Crosby’s biggest hit.
“Irving Berlin is my favorite because his music is so incredibly joyful, tuneful and melodic,” Skinner said. “A lot of his songs have dance in the title. He understood dance.”
The Ohio State University graduate, who has received three Tony nominations for his choreography (for Ain’t Broadway Grand, 42 nd Street and White Christmas), understands dance, too.
“I loved working on the show because it gave me so many production numbers to choreograph in different styles.”
Joerder said he can’t imagine doing the show without Skinner.
“Randy’s choreography is so exciting, fits those wonderful Irving Berlin songs and moves the story along so well that you fall in love with the show,” he said.
Skinner is known for his devotion to ballroom dancing, tap and golden-age Hollywood movie-musical choreography — all of which fill White Christmas.
Adapted by David Ives (All in the Timing) and Paul Blake, the musical focuses on two former Army buddies turned Broadway/nightclub stars and the two female performers they woo — but not without obstacles.
The Paramount Pictures film starred Bing Crosby as showbiz pro Bob Wallace with Danny Kaye as neophyte performer Phil Davis opposite a sister act of Rosemary Clooney (as Betty Haynes) and Vera-Ellen (as Judy Haynes).
When the men learn that their beloved World War II general is struggling to keep his Vermont inn open, they decide to secretly help him by using their showmanship and showbiz connections. Their secrecy, however, leads to misunderstandings and romantic complications.
“It’s really about the Christmas spirit and how people come to each other’s aid and help each other out of love for their fellow man,” said James Clow, who plays Bob Wallace.
Skinner got involved with the show in 2004, when it was adapted for the stage and given a trial run in San Francisco.
Instead of rushing to open in New York, the producers kept the show on the road to tweak and polish it in annual holiday-season tours to major cities. Only in the show’s fourth year did it reach Broadway, where strong ticket sales sparked a 2009-10 encore.
“When you transfer a famous movie musical, you have to make sure that people are seeing their memory onstage,” Skinner said. “You have to deliver what the people walk in expecting, and that’s a challenge.”
Stefanie Morse plays Betty Haynes in the cast, which includes former central Ohio residents Darien Crago and Drew Humphrey in the ensemble. “The melodies are so rich,” Morse said. “I think I was born in the wrong era, because I love singing this music more than any music I can think of.”& amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; lt; /p>
Morse also toured with the show this past Christmas.
“It’s such a feel-good musical,” she said. “The dancing is knock-your-socks-off spectacular. .?.?p p p p p p ; > . People walk out so lifted up, with spirits so high. In this tough time, it’s nice to leave people with that.”