With its repeated television viewings during the holidays, no doubt there are many people with fond memories of the movie White Christmas. I suspect that may come, not only from the fine Irving Berlin tunes that fill the piece and the star teaming of Bing Crosby et al, but from sentimental recall of who you watched it with and when and where.
I say that because the stage version now on view at the Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre (with book by David Ives and Paul Blake, based on the 1954 film) only serves to highlight the extreme simplicity of the storyline, which is one that could be written on a napkin. World War II buddies Bob (Greg Wiegers) and Phil (Michael De Mocko) become a successful song-and-dance team, meet up with two singing sisters, Betty (Jessica Anne Morrow) and Judy (Geena M. Ravella), and put on a show to help out general-turned-innkeeper Waverly (Phil Croome), all while waiting for snow to fall in Vermont.
If you’re really feeling swayed by the music—Happy Holiday, Let Me Sing and I’m Happy, Count Your Blessings and, of course, the title tune—that may be enough to carry you through the show, which is performed with energy and spirit by the cast under the direction of Rick Kerby and with the leadership of musical director Bobby Brader and his orchestra. There’s no drama to it, however; the transition from the opening war scene to backstage dressing rooms is ho-hum, and there’s no chance for any real sparks to fly in the romantic department. There’s also not much the actors can do to try to make their two-dimensional characters any more than that.
But there is some fun, thanks to the female and male versions of Sisters and Brittney Klepper’s turn as the meddling Martha (another show biz vet) who helps run the inn; she puts a lot of oomph into her scenes. And there’s some nice dancing, especially on the cleverly choreographed I Love a Piano, Blue Skies and The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing, the latter featuring Ravella and DeMocko. There’s also, ultimately, snow.
White Christmas continues through Dec. 23; for tickets call 748-5875 or go to manateeplayers.com.