Limited Broadway Run of White Christmas Ends; Will It "Snow" Again?

News   Limited Broadway Run of White Christmas Ends; Will It "Snow" Again?
 
The limited 65-performance Broadway run of Irving Berlin's White Christmas, a seasonal specialty that sent audiences home on a cloud of famous show tunes — including that title number by Berlin — ends Jan. 4 at the Marquis Theatre.
Kerry O'Malley and Stephen Bogardus in White Christmas.
Kerry O'Malley and Stephen Bogardus in White Christmas. Photo by Richard Feldman

Encouraged by audience approval and healthy grosses, producers are hoping that a Broadway house will be available in the future for a return visit of the merry and bright musical comedy, which boasts vibrant colors and tap-happy choreography along the lines of 42nd Street.

The tale of a couple of song-and-dance men who meet up with a sister act to make sparks fly — and snow fall — is based on the beloved 1954 movie musical that starred Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. The Broadway debut of White Christmas opened Nov. 23 after previews from Nov. 14 at the Marquis. The show played 12 previews and 53 regular performances.

Next up at the Marquis is the Chinese martial-arts spectacle, Soul of Shaolin, starting Jan. 13.

Following popular annual engagements in major markets throughout North America since 2004, Irving Berlin's White Christmas finally made it to Broadway. Because this concept and physical production has had a regional presence for four years, it has yet to be determined by the Tony Awards Administration Committee if this will be eligible as a "new" musical or a "revival" in the 2008-09 Tony Award competition.

"It surpassed our expectations," producer Kevin McCollum told Playbill.com. "We knew we had a great show. What's clear is that people were thirsty for a musical about a sensibility that is still a big part of America: Taking care of your family, your community, keeping your word and falling in love — and a great score." McCollum said he "would love to bring the show back to Broadway" in the future, but certain business factors — including availability of a theatre, and continuing discussions with unions about a new business model for a 12-week limited run — prevent him from saying it's a sure thing.

"My hope is to work with unions to create a 12-week contract," he said, adding that bringing the show back to Broadway is not completely in his hands.

White Christmas will continue to have a life outside of New York City, he said.

As of Jan. 2, the producers did not announce a recoupment of their investment for this engagement.

The limited engagement included several weeks when nine performances were offered (instead of Broadway's traditional eight), in order to accommodate seasonal demand. It was the top-grossing Broadway show for two consecutive weeks in December, and took in more than $1 million a week for several weeks of the run.

Because of audiences' affection for the source material, and due to the seasonal nature of the plot, some Broadway performances were sold out before White Christmas even opened.

Critics in San Francisco, Detroit, Toronto, Boston, Los Angeles and St. Paul, MN, have called this Walter Bobbie-directed staging (with tap-happy choreography by 42nd Street veteran Randy Skinner) "Broadway-style" for the past four years. Its commercial producer Kevin McCollum and his partners agreed from the beginning, but bided their time before bringing it to New York City this year. They plan to make the show an annual event on Broadway, while continuing to produce it seasonally in other markets; separate Bobbie-directed productions played St. Paul and Detroit this year.

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In order to make the limited run of the seasonal, large-cast show economically feasible on Broadway, the producers asked for some concessions from unions and the theatre owner. Details were not made public.

Set in the 1950s, ten years after the leading men ended their World War II service, White Christmas "tells the story of two showbiz buddies who put on a show in a picturesque Vermont inn, and find their perfect mates in the bargain," according to producers.

The show's score includes Berlin favorites "Count Your Blessings," "I Love a Piano," "Happy Holidays," "Sisters," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," "How Deep is the Ocean" and more.

Irving Berlin's White Christmas stars Stephen Bogardus (as Bob Wallace, the role created by Bing Crosby), Kerry O'Malley (Betty Haynes, originated by Rosemary Clooney), Jeffry Denman (Phil Davis, created by Danny Kaye), Meredith Patterson (Judy Haynes, created by Vera-Ellen), Charles Dean (General Henry Waverly) and Susan Mansur (Martha Watson). The cast of 33 features Peter Reardon (Ralph Sheldrake), Cliff Bemis (Ezekiel), Sheffield Chastain (Mike Nulty), Melody Hollis (Susan Waverly), Phillip Attmore, Jacob ben Widmar, Sara Brians, Stephen Carrasco, Margot de la Barre, Mary Giattino, Anne Horak, Drew Humphrey, Wendy James, Amy Justman, Matthew Kirk, Sae La Chin, Richie Mastascusa, Jarran Muse, Alessa Neeck, Shannon O'Bryan, Con O'Shea-Creal, Athena Ripka, Kiira Schmidt, Chad Seib, Kelly Sheehan, Katherine Tokarz and Kevin Worley.

Bobbie is the Tony Award-winning director behind the smash revival of Chicago.

Irving Berlin's White Christmas has a book by David Ives (Is He Dead?) and Paul Blake, set design by Tony Award nominee Anna Louizos (In the Heights, Avenue Q), costumes by Tony Award nominee Carrie Robbins (Grease, Over Here), lighting design by Tony Award winner Ken Billington (Chicago, The Drowsy Chaperone, Annie), sound design by Tony Award nominee Acme Sound Partners (In the Heights, Spamalot), orchestrations by Tony Award nominee Larry Blank (The Drowsy Chaperone), vocal and dance arrangements by Bruce Pomahac and music supervision by Rob Berman.

 

Meredith Patterson and Jeffry Denman
photo by Joan Marcus

(This creative team was part of the project since the 2004 initiation of the planned franchise. A world-premiere recording of the score, with cast members plucked from various markets — Brian d'Arcy James plays Bob on disc — was previously released by Ghostlight Records.)

The stage production is based on the Paramount Pictures film, written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank.

Irving Berlin's White Christmas is produced by Kevin McCollum, John Gore, Tom McGrath, Paul Blake, The Producing Office, Dan Markley, Sonny Everett and Broadway Across America in association with Paramount Pictures.

For more information visit WhiteChristmasOnBroadway.com.

Here's the list of musical numbers from the Playbill of White Christmas:

ACT ONE

Overture
"Happy Holiday"
"White Christmas"
"Let Yourself Go"
"Love and the Weather"
"Sisters"
"The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing"
"Snow"
"What Can You Do With a General?"
"Let Me Sing and I'm Happy"
"Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep"
"Blue Skies"

ACT TWO

Entr'acte
"I Love a Piano"
"Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun"
"Sisters" (Reprise)
"Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me"/"How Deep Is the Ocean?"
"We'll Follow the Old Man"
"Let Me Sing and I'm Happy" (Reprise)
"How Deep Is the Ocean?" (Reprise)
"We'll Follow the Old Man" (Reprise)
"White Christmas" (Reprise)
Finale: "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm"

Stephen Bogardus (center) with the cast
Stephen Bogardus (center) with the cast
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