Broadway in San Antonio’s ‘White Christmas’ Delivers Old-School Zingers and Hokey Nostalgia

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COURTESY OF BROADWAY IN SAN ANTONIO
  • Courtesy of Broadway in San Antonio
It seems that Broadway in San Antonio is running a sort of theatrical experiment this season, with two postwar American film musicals transplanted to the legitimate stage. One, An American in Paris, features a new and expanded book by acclaimed playwright Craig Lucas. The result is elegant, thoughtful, and even poignant. It arrives in June, and you should see it.

The other is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, and it’s unrelievedly hokey. There’s been little attempt to update, tweak, or improve the style of the sentimental 1954 film, with the result that the evening feels nostalgic in the worst sense: like being trapped in amber, or in time. Old-fashioned zingers land with the thuddiest of thuds (for example: “you can shove it up your vacuum cleaner and turn it on high!”) and even spiffy production numbers can’t alleviate the plodding narrative arc. You know the evening is going to conclude with a white Christmas — though the ironist in me would squeal at a climate-change twist — but why must it take so long to get there?
COURTESY OF BROADWAY IN SAN ANTONIO
  • Courtesy of Broadway in San Antonio
Well, for what it’s worth, there is plenty of professionalism on display at the Majestic. The evening follows two American veterans (winningly played by Sean Montgomery and Jeremy Benton) who tour the country as song-and-dance men. They cross paths with an up-and-coming sister act (Kerry Conte and Kelly Sheehan), and after some shenanigans, the quartet arrives in Vermont at an inn run by the GIs’ old commanding officer, General Waverly (Conrad John Schuck). Alas, a run of warm weather is killing the tourist trade, and only the determination of our plucky quartet of triple-threats can save the day.
COURTESY OF BROADWAY IN SAN ANTONIO
  • Courtesy of Broadway in San Antonio
Or something like that. Mostly, the plot serves to set up musical numbers, some good (“Blue Skies,” “White Christmas”), some insipid (“What Can You Do with a General?”). Easily the highlight of the evening is the second act opener (“I Love a Piano”), a Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire-inspired fantasia complete with a piano prop and a gaggle of energetic tappers. (It’s also the finest show-off moment for Benton and Sheehan, and choreographed to the hilt by Randy Skinner.) Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba pops up as the frazzled innkeeper Martha Watson, with a big, belting number (“Let Me Sing and I’m Happy”). Plenty of scene changes allow us to see the ever-inventive work of designer Anna Louizos, including the iconic final tableau. 
COURTESY OF BROADWAY IN SAN ANTONIO
  • Courtesy of Broadway in San Antonio
This particular version of the film first premiered in St. Louis in 2000, which means that even the revival is getting a bit long in the tooth. Clearly, it only works as a syrupy holiday show, and calculated to make gobs of money — a sort of Black Friday White Christmas. If that’s your bag (or stocking), then feel free to check it out downtown through Sunday (otherwise, save your greenbacks for An American in Paris next summer).

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
$40-$130, 7:30pm Thu, Dec. 14, 8pm Fri, Dec. 15, 2pm & 8pm Sat, Dec. 16, 2pm & 7:30pm Sun, Dec. 17, The Majestic Theatre, 224 E. Houston St., (210) 226-3333, majesticempire.com.



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