Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Rachel Thomas, Carl
Dahlquist, Lindsey Bruno, and Andy Roberts.
By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
Washington County’s 2014 holiday season is rife with non-traditional theatrical fare, which makes HART Theatre’s decision to present a thoroughly conventional production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas a bold and refreshing move. Director Matt Russell is an admitted Christmas fanatic, and he has put together a fine production to honor his favorite time of year. From the opening notes of “Happy Holidays” to the closing, an audience sing-along of perennial favorite “White Christmas,” the viewers are bathed in the comfort of a familiar tale and wonderful songs that have become a treasured part of America’s holiday culture.

 Grace Malloy
Even those few who are not familiar with the story will recognize its elements – nice boy meets girl, cherished army leader is in trouble after war ends, nice boy loses girl, loyal soldiers save the day for the “Old Man”, nice boy gets girl back again, playboy gets lots of girls but doesn’t recognize true love until she shows him the error of his ways. Add in “let’s do the show here!” and a retired chorine still in thrall to the siren song of show biz plus one lonely granddaughter with hidden talent, season with 21 classic Irving Berlin songs, and the evening is complete.

In a large, enthusiastic and generally strong cast, Lindsey Bruno (“Betty Haynes”), Rachel Thomas (“Judy Haynes”), and Sarah Fuller (“Martha Watson”) are real standouts. All three have beautiful solo voices, and when they join forces (as in “Sisters” and “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun”) it’s pure ambrosia. Bruno’s rendition of “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” is exquisite – perhaps the best number of the evening.

Andy Roberts (nice guy “Bob Wallace”) and Carl Dahlquist (playboy “Phil Davis”) play the former army buddies turned song and dance stars. Dahlquist and Thomas make a cute couple, and they team up especially well for “I Love A Piano.” Roberts’ voice is perfect for his touching rendition of “Count Your Blessings” with Grace Malloy (“Susan Waverly”). Seventh grader Malloy shines as the studious granddaughter who surprises everybody (including the audience) with her newly discovered song and dance prowess.

The other 16 cast members fill countless roles, with lightning fast shifts from one persona to the next. Vocal Director Alice Dalrymple has crafted a strong vocal ensemble; several chorus members have cameos that further demonstrate the depth of the cast’s musical ability. Choreographer Kate Jahnson’s dance ensemble also sparkles with individual displays of talent. Along with Malloy, the four smaller children in the cast are shameless scene-stealers, especially when they silently rehearse their dance numbers at the back of the stage.

Karen Roder’s costuming for White Christmas must have been a real labor of love, as some characters wear 6+ outfits and all attire is period appropriate to the forties and mid-fifties. The small band of five musicians, conducted by accompanist Beth Karp, helps to keep everyone on key and on beat through the show’s 2+ hours of nearly nonstop singing and dancing.

Many thanks to HART for giving Washington County audiences a good old-fashioned family show that would melt the heart of even the Grinchiest of Grinches!

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” is playing at the HART Theatre, 185 SE Washington Street, Hillsboro through Sunday, December 21 with 7:30 p.m. performances on Friday and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m..







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