by Jamie Bullins
Lied Center, Monday, November 11, 2019, 7:30 pm.
Let me start off by saying that you only have tonight to catch the tour at the Lied this year. So, stop reading, go buy your tickets and then come back to this. I’ll wait.
Now that you’ve settled which performance is your night out for this nostalgic, what-should-be-a-new-Christmas-tradition production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas the Musical, I’ll share a little of my experience last evening.
If the film occupies a significant place in your holiday season, you won’t be disappointed. Bundle up, take some tissues, your Christmas memories with family and friends will be upon you at the strike of the first chord from the orchestra (who are amazing, by the way). Now, Mr. Frenette, Mr. Elder, Ms. Conte, and Ms. Sheehan are no slouches, no sir. But, of course, they are not Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. So, that aside, these folks are top notch performers, triple-threats all. They bring the songs we are oh-so familiar with to life with energy and care. Their charm is palpable, and the dance numbers will absolutely knock you off your feet, metaphorically. Tap musicals seem few and far between nowadays, so don’t miss this one. I really cannot go on about the choreography and the sheer talent of the ensemble. You won’t want to blink during those numbers for the fear of missing one single solitary step.
You will most likely recognize Conrad John Schuck (General Henry Waverly) from his body of work as a performer, and he is the most huggable old salt you would ever hope to meet. His show stopping speeches to his troops will warm the cockles of your heart.
Please welcome back Chris McNiff to Lincoln as well. He was Claude in the Nebraska Repertory Theatre’s production of Hair last season. Here, he’s in the ensemble, but who knew he could hoof it like that. Congrats Chris, on your 4th year with the White Christmas tour. Let me tell you, the old adage, “the musical is only as strong as its chorus” holds true here. These guys are fabulous.
There’s not much else I can say about this production of White Christmas, except, when the first rendition of “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” started up, it was all I could do to not sing along awkwardly amidst the happy tears. Cheesy, you may say, shmaltzy, that too, and you may be right. But, if there’s a shred of the Christmas spirit down in you, they’ll pull it out and show it to you and yours. Make sure and take it out into the world with you when you leave the Lied. I think that may be what this show is about.
If you go: You can catch Irving Berlin’s White Christmas November 12-13 with 7:30 pm curtain times. Reservations are encouraged and can be made online.
Jamie Bullins is a member of the faculty in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at UNL, since the fall of 2017. He is an educator, scenographer, director, and playwright and has been at it for almost 25 years now.
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