Theater group offers up a classic ‘White Christmas’

By MIKE CHAIKEN
EDITIONS EDITOR
It was a classic holiday movie.
Then it was turned into a popular stage show.
And now “White Christmas” is stirring up holiday memories in New Britain as the Connecticut Theatre Company continues its production of the stage musical this weekend and next.
The show features music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and gave the world such classic songs as “White Christmas,” “I Love a Piano,” and “Blue Skies.” It tells the story of a popular song-and-dance team who partner up with a sister act to mount a stage show to save the Vermont inn of their former commanding officer.
“For me,” said Erin Frechette of Bristol, “I can remember as a little girl watching the movie every year with my dad. For us, it was a tradition. It wasn’t Christmas for us until we watched it together.”
Peter Bailey of Bristol, who plays song and dance man Bob Wallace (played by Bing Crosby in the movie), said, “It’s kind of a classic. simple kind of story. It’s not an Ibsen or Shakespeare that leaves you thinking for a few days. It’s something that’s a good time and leaves you warm and fuzzy— and maybe a little closer to the folks you came with as you get into the Christmas spirit.”
“The story’s a great story line. It’s so happy,” said Tamarra Martin of Bristol, a dancer in the ensemble. Martin explained the plot. “It’s Christmas. It looks like going to be sad because a couple breaks up but then they get back together… It’s a happy, sappy Christmas movie. But, who doesn’t love a good love story for Christmas? It’s just perfect.”
Sarah Skrip of West Hartford, who plays Betty Haynes (handled by Rosemary Clooney in the film), said, “It’s just such a classic story. The movie itself is on TV all the time. There are TV shows about families sitting down and watching this movie. Bing Crosby starred in it and Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen… the word classic keeps coming back.”
The music of “White Christmas, “which was written by Irving Berlin, has worked its way into the American songbook canon.
Southington’s Steffon Sampson, who plays a stage manager, said of the music, “It’s simple but yet it’s complicated. In this show, there are so many harmonies, it’s so hard to catch those parts. But once you catch those parts, and it meshes together, it’s a great sound. It’s a great feeling.”
Bailey said, “Irving Berlin, he’s one of the classics. When you think of early Broadway, you think of Berlin, (George) Gershwin, (Cole) Porter, and (Jerome) Kern. And Berlin is the inventor of the earworm. He had such a gift for writing memorable music, something that gets its hook into you. You’re thinking of it for days— and you’re loving it.”
Kristen Norris of Berlin, who plays Judy Haynes, which was performed by Vera-Ellen in the film), said she likes the “grand scale of a lot of the numbers. You hear these eight part harmonies and these big chord progressions… and it’s all on a huge grandiose scale. It’s very Irving Berlin.”
Kristie Yurko of Bristol, a member of the ensemble said, “I love the jazzy rhythm to some of the songs…. There are a million harmonies. It’s crazy learning them. Once you get all the parts together, it’s beautiful.”
The cast members said “White Christmas” will put you in the right frame of mind for the season.
“This show will put you in a holiday mood because it’s very family friendly,” said Yurko. “The music really brings out the story to life.
Stephen Michelsson of New Britain, who plays Phil Davis (which was handled by Danny Kaye in the film), said, “I think everyone will love it and walk out and be ready for Christmas.”
Sampson said, “You’ll walk out of there singing a tune, whatever tune, and you’re going to be dancing or singing… (The music will) be stuck in your head because it’s so joyful and so cheerful.”
And Frechette said the show will put you in the holiday spirit because, “It’s a happy ending. With the way the world is today, it’s a change of pace.”
The Connecticut Theatre Production of “White Christmas” continues through Dec. 20 at the Repertory Theater, 23 Norden St., New Britain on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Tickets are on sale online at or can be purchased at the door the night of the show. Tickets are $25 for adults and $23 for seniors and students.
For more information, go to www.connecticuttheatrecompany.orgBRI_1101 BRI_1129

The cast of Connecticut Theatre Company’s production of ‘White Christmas’ rehearse a dance routine at the Repertory Theater in New Britain. The stage musical runs through Dec. 20.

The cast of Connecticut Theatre Company’s production of ‘White Christmas’ rehearse a dance routine at the Repertory Theater in New Britain. The stage musical runs through Dec. 20.

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Sarah Skrip, left, and Kristen Norris rehearse a scene from ‘White Christmas.’ The Connecticut Theatre Company production is now playing through Dec. 20.

Sarah Skrip, left, and Kristen Norris rehearse a scene from ‘White Christmas.’ The Connecticut Theatre Company production is now playing through Dec. 20.

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