Marcus Larson/News-Register##Judy Haynes (Megan Read), Phil Davis (Luis Becerril), and two train passengers, (Heidi Tachan and Cesar Anguiano), perform a musical number in Gallery Theater’s “White Christmas.”
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Judy Haynes (Megan Read), Phil Davis (Luis Becerril), and two train passengers, (Heidi Tachan and Cesar Anguiano), perform a musical number in Gallery Theater’s “White Christmas.”
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Phil Davis (Luis Becerril), Martha Watson (Leslie Collins) and Bob Wallace (Seth Renne) discuss the show the two men have planned in Gallery Theater’s “White Christmas.” The show continues through Dec. 19.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Phil Davis (Luis Becerril), Martha Watson (Leslie Collins) and Bob Wallace (Seth Renne) discuss the show the two men have planned in Gallery Theater’s “White Christmas.” The show continues through Dec. 19.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Play review: ‘White Christmas’ a brightly wrapped gift

Gallery Theater has wrapped up a wonderful present for musical lovers: A production of “White Christmas” that’s a real treat to both the eye and the ear.

It’s an old-fashioned musical, in the best sense: a pinch of romance, a heaping cup of laughter and a generous portion of song and dance — the latter is what we’re all here for, after all. 

If you go

Director Roland Cranford and his cast do a great job and make more than the most of the tinsel-thin plot; they convince the audience to believe in, and root for, the relationships.

But it’s not just the people you see on stage who should be congratulated; it’s the whole production team.

In addition to the singing and performing, the show’s success hinges on the period costumes by Linda Mattson, Ashley Benham Bertolini (those clever, PG-rated trees!), Kelley Bodnar (red dresses that are worth the wait) and nearly a dozen others; the set decoration, including paintings by Teresa Van de Veere and Adam Tricky; the choreography, well done in a wide range of styles by cast member Ember Eastman; and the music direction, by Kathleen Walter and cast members Heidi Tschan (who, along with Mary Smalley, rock those tree costumes) and Seth Renne.

Renne and Luis Becerril — whose voices blend beautifully, in addition to sounding great on their own — play a popular song-and-dance duo, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis. Together since their Army days, they’re now at the top of their game, selling out theaters and appearing regularly on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” where another military buddy, Ralph Sheldrake (Cesar Anguiano) works.

Phil keeps pushing Bob to think a little less about the business and a little more about the ladies — something Phil has already mastered. But Bob is reluctant until he meets Betty Haynes (Eastman), who performs with her sister, Judy (Megan Lutsock-Read). Naturally, Bob and Betty hate each other on sight — a sign that they soon will fall head-over-heels in love.

The four performers end up at a Vermont ski lodge owned by their old commanding officer (Walt Haight). What else would they do there but put on a show? And a great show it is.

“White Christmas” includes many delightful numbers that feature a dancing, singing chorus (kudos to Lydia Dolence for her breakout tap performance) in addition to the four leads in various combinations. Audiences won’t forget “Snow,” “Blue Skies,” “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” and “I Love a Piano” — or the hilarious reprise of the latter by Wayne Bailey, who plays the taciturn (we thought) New England handyman.

Bailey and Scotty Dolence, who gleefully plays Bob and Phil’s assistant, both should be nominated for Gallery’s “minor role” award for their brief, but memorable appearances.

The more intimate numbers are well done and properly touching — “How Deep is the Ocean?” “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me” (Eastman/Betty’s heartbreaking torch song), “Love and the Weather.” And there are funny numbers, such as “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” featuring Leslie Collins, and “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun,” with the wonderful harmonies of Collins, Lutsock-Read and Eastman. 

But it’s Betty and Judy’s signature number, “Sisters,” that really brings down the house, both times the song is performed. Gotta love those ostrich feathers.

The “White Christmas” experience begins when the audience enters the theater. Gallery’s proscenium stage is wrapped in a beautiful holly garland, with glittering Christmas trees flanking each side.

The curtains open to reveal several layers, one of them a big empty barn; these become various locations for scenes with the addition of a few chairs and tables, a cutaway train car, or a desk or vanity.

The simplicity is effective, for the most part. Unfortunately, the TV camera almost gets lost in the holiday decorations — it needs to be more obvious during the Sullivan show segments.

One thing that definitely isn’t wasted: the show’s ties to military veterans. At the end, cast members ask vets to stand and everyone applauds. It’s a perfect ending.


 

If you go

What: "White Christmas," the musical

Where: Gallery Theater, Second and Ford streets, downtown McMinnville

When: Friday through Sunday, Nov. 27 to Dec. 19, with additional performances on the Thursdays of Dec. 12 and 17. Sunday matinees start at 3 p.m.; other performances at 7:30 p.m.

How much: $17 for adults and $15 for students and seniors

More information/reservations: 503-472-2227

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