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Theatre Review (LA): White Christmas with Songs by Irving Berlin at Cabrillo Music Theatre

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Certain entertainments are meant to be seen during the Christmas season.  A Christmas Carol, Ahmal and the Night Visitors, Handel’s Messiah…and White Christmas, to name a few.

White Christmas was a movie starring Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby, featuring songs by Irving Berlin. That movie was based on a more dramatic version of the story in the film Holiday Inn. The stage musical of White Christmas took shape decades later, beginning in San Francisco in 2004. Eventually it played in New York City but received lukewarm reviews. Despite the reviews, the show was nominated for several Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards, yet the show has never quite translated to the stage.

Cabrillo Music Theatre may have come up with a solution.  They staged White Christmas like one of those bare-bones productions such as Reprise in Los Angeles and Encores in New York City. Without the clumsy sets, we are left with a wonderful song and dance show, and of course, the music of Irving Berlin. Director Todd Neilson has wisely brought the orchestra on stage so the music is front and center.

Get yourself a terrific choreographer like Melissa Giattino, a musical director like Darryl Archibald, and a hugely talented cast – David Engel, Randy Rogel, Jennifer Mathews, and Cassie Silva – and you have yourself a delicious Christmas punch. Engel and Rogel performed together in last season’s award-winning Singin’ in the Rain. They play beautifully together. I would go anywhere to see David Engel dance and sing, for he is one of our best performers. Ms. Mathews has a magnificent voice and Ms. Silva is a talented dancer as well as singer.

White Christmas (complete with snow!) had only eight performances, with the final night dedicated to military families. It played at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Bank of America Performing Arts.

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