Stepping out of White Christmas’ heady, holiday-magic, simpler-times fantasy onto a rain-slicked Granville St. is a bit of a letdown. Christmas is a vibrant, pleasant little illusion, an energetic, extremely faithful interpretation of the Crosby/Kaye/Clooney musical that might have been a touch over-sentimental even in the 50s.
If it’s That Christmas Feeling you’re looking for, here it is in sparkling, tap-dancing, melodious glory. Christmas exists in a world that isn’t quite our own – not just the 50s, but Irving Berlin’s 50s – and it’s a world that’s ecstatic about putting on a show for us. Every costume, dance number, and rapid-fire comedy exchange is merrily gift-wrapped into such a gloriously giddy present that the audience is bound to spend the better part of the show’s run-time with a correspondingly sappy grin on their faces. It’s all very grand, high kicks and big smiles, and unabashedly so.
Like its source material, the show is thinly-plotted, cheerfully androcentric, and light as a generic Christmas metaphor, but the obvious question – will we buy it? – still turns up a resounding yes. The performances are excellent: Victor and Talbot (whose names, now that I put them down, even sound the part) are hilarious, talented, and appropriately carefree in the lead roles; Susan Anderson and Jada McKenzie-Moore, with their dashing performances of “Let Me Sing And I’m Happy,” do Al Jolson one better by foregoing the blackface; the ensemble is uniformly strong; and the Haynes sisters, whose well-known number “Sisters” is always in danger of being overshadowed by the whoop-inducing transvestism of the song’s reprise, more than hold their own.
There’s an attention to detail that really rounds out the show; the ensemble is constantly alive with amusing one-off stories and sight gags that are as vital to the completeness of the fantasy as they are funny. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em background moments, like Allison Fligg’s comic consternation at being unable to find a seat on the train, fill out a world that’s intentionally over-abundant. With so little going on in the plot, it’s impressive, and appreciated, how much goes on on the stage. And what a stage, too – set designer Alison Green’s rich 1950s backdrops are every bit a match for Sheila White’s opulently Christmasy costumes. Like any good fantasy, every bit of this one is a joy to look at.
As I write, the weather forecast proclaims that we Vancouverites have about a 21% chance of a white Christmas this year. If we happen to be left with no miracle and lots of rain, at least you know that White Christmas is just down the block, happily waiting to pick up the Winter Wonderland slack for a couple of fun, festive hours. You could wait for the carolers to come round, sure … but head to the Stanley Industrial Alliance if you want that holiday cheer with a generous helping of tap numbers, good ol’-fashioned wordplay, and hearty Christmas reverie.
White Christmas plays until December 23rd at Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. Click here for more information!