A HOLIDAY CLASSIC

by bobbie katz

This year, the holidays in Las Vegas are proving to be one for the books. Not only will the stage be set for Christmas to come early — right in the middle of the Thanksgiving holiday, in fact — but it will bring with it something one never expects to see in this city: “Snow.” But don’t pull out your boots just yet. “Snow” is just one of 17 merry and bright production numbers in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, which will be in live performance at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Nov. 22-27.

A talented cast of 27, amid beautiful sets and lighting, and colorful costumes, will serve up holiday spirit through song and dance. This book show draws from the classic movie about two World War II veterans who have a successful song-and-dance act and follow two singing sisters to a Vermont inn that just happens to be owned by their former Army commander. Discovering that he is in trouble, they decide to put on a show to help him save the venue. Therein lies the true star — Irving Berlin’s music.

“Our show is carried by the wonderful production numbers and Irving Berlin songs,” explained Randy Skinner, who choreographed the original vehicle and also has been directing it for more than three years. “It’s dance-driven music. Irving wrote great melodies and lyrics, and wrote for a lot of dance. He understood dancing and rhythm.

Skinner noted that the challenge of turning a beloved star- driven movie into a stage show is basically threefold: To create a wonderful stage musical; to evoke the audiences’ memories of the movie; and to make each production number different. With songs like the Oscar-winning “White Christmas” and “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep),” as well as “Sisters,” “What Can You Do With a General” and “The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing”; a talented, age-appropriate cast; Skinner’s choreography expertise; and the blessing and hands-on cooperation of Berlin’s three daughters, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas has become an annual holiday favorite that has toured each season across the country for the past 13 years.

“We started in San Francisco 13 years ago, and for the next two years we had multiple companies that sat in different cities for six weeks,” Skinner recalled. “We did Broadway twice, and then we made the show “tourable.”

“The cast feels such freedom when they are dancing to Irving’s music, and the audience feels that,” he summed up. “If you can make talent the selling point of a show, you have a chance at longevity. Star power is not important in a production like this. People will leave the theater feeling good. And there are a couple of surprises at the end of the show.”

Let it “Snow,” let it “Snow,” let it “Snow.”

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