Theater Review: WHITE CHRISTMAS at Actors Cabaret of Eugene, by Anna Grace
Ashley Apelzin and Sophie Mitchell as Judy and Betty Haynes singing â€œSistersâ€ in White Christmas, courtesy ACE
Let the Season Begin!
White Christmas at Actors Cabaret of Eugene sings in the holiday*
by Anna Grace
White Christmas is a string of wonderful songs and big dance numbers held together by a surprisingly satisfying plot. In an unlikely series of events only allowed in big musical extravaganzas of the 1940s and â€™50s, audiences watch a retired military hero come to peace with his post-war life, hardened bachelors find love and small town yokels get bitten by the theater bug.
Itâ€™s a fun play, but it ainâ€™t easy.
Read more after the jump!
Vocally the show at Actors Cabaret is strong, with actors cornering the tone and inflection of the period. I never thought Iâ€™d be saying this of ACE, but the production needs more glitz. The stage seems uncommonly dark. Costuming included a lot of sparkly garments, along with some glaring historical inaccuracies: 1983 does not equal 1954. The lack of ease among dancers is something I can only attribute to a healthy fear of falling off the stage; they are so starved for room.
I donâ€™t mean to suggest that the Cabaret has bitten off more than they can chew, for even if they had, their chutzpah is half the reason we love them. Director Joe Zingo slowly builds the showâ€™s energy until it is positively buzzing by the fifth number. Most performers manage to capture the mid-century glamour essential to this piece. Sophie Mitchell is delightful as Betty Haynes, and Ashley Apelzin charms as her sister Judy. Endearing Carly Walker (Susan) and Kathryn Bowman (Martha â€œthe megaphoneâ€ Watson) keep the action kicking.
More singing, this time at the unsnowy Columbia Inn, Courtesy ACE
As song and dance team Wallace and Davis, Tony Coslett and Collin Gray successfully croon their way into audience hearts. Coslett has a particularly nice polish on his character. Ultimately, the biggest challenge of this play are these characters. Because the musical is taken directly from the film, the lead actors are restricted to reproducing the original performance. At his very best, all Coslett can succeed in is doing a good Bing Crosby, which heâ€™s never going to do as well as Bing Crosby, even if he is more likeable. Colin Grayâ€™s Phil Davis is as slick talking and wiley as Danny Kayeâ€™s â€” but we allowed Danny Kaye to get away with bad jokes and one-dimensional characters. Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s wrong, Iâ€™m just saying it would be unreasonable to expect a mere mortal to say, â€œVa-va-voomâ€ with a straight face. Coslett and Gray turn out fine performances given the confines of the script.
And it's a "White Christmas" for all, and for all a good night. Courtesy ACE
A press release states, â€œChristmas starts at Actors Cabaret!â€ Given ACEâ€™s long tradition of fun, family-friendly holiday productions, Iâ€™d have to agree with this. Tickets to this show would be the very best gift you could give your grandma or favorite â€™50s aficianado, so grab your seats and let it snow.
White Christmas runs through Dec. 19 at ACE. Tix here or 683-4368.
*This review will run in our print edition of 11/25, as well as our online version of that print edition.