Marriott’s “White Christmas” is a Classic in 3-D

3-D is all the rage; just take a look at current movie offerings.

But smart money says the 3-D thing won’t take real hold until technology figures out how to deliver the goods without users being forced to don those Bono-esque glasses. Marriott Theatre, as usual, is one step ahead.

Leaping from the small screen and mental scrapbooks of childhood holiday memories past, “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” takes to Marriott’s Lincolnshire stage with humor, grace and warmth. It’s the perfect treat for this most wonderful time of the year.

True to the much-beloved 1954 movie classic, the stage production opens on a Christmas battlefield in 1944, introducing soon-to-be Broadway stars Bob Wallace (Rod Thomas) and Phil Davis (Andy Lupp) serving the U.S. Army command of General Thomas Waverly (David Lively).

Director and Choreographer Marc Robin moves the cast briskly through the well-known romantic, musical plotline culminating in a grand visit to snowless Vermont. There the now-famous Broadway team of Wallace and Davis, with new love interests, the Haynes sisters (Tammy Mader as Judy and Stephanie Binetti as Betty), puts on a Christmas Eve show to save their old commander’s inn. A full plot summary for those needing a more thorough refresher is here.

This is an old-time musical, featuring lovely Berlin compositions in a show-within-a-show dependent on lavish costumes, near-flawless big number choreography and a heaping helping of schmaltz. Marriott doesn’t disappoint.

While fuller-cast renditions would be welcomed in, many songs provide the energy to carry audience members through to the show’s Vermont maple syrupy end—“The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,” “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” “Blue Skies” and “I Love a Piano.”

Lupp’s dance, in particular, deserves special notice; it’s not surprising his bio includes a Jefferson Award for his portrayal of Cosmo Brown in “Singin’ in the Rain.” He’s just that good.

Kudos go, too, to costumer Nancy Missimi, particularly for the classy royal blue ensembles donned in the show’s first big number, “Happy Holiday,” and for the red satin formalwear worn for the closing signature song.

Marriott’s signature representative sets are effective and at times clever. Inverted Christmas tree decor and unrealistic snowfall during the final scene are minor distractions.

While all performers are up to this theater’s uber-professional standards, the standout performance comes from Alene Robertson as inn caretaker Martha Wilson. Big and bawdy, yet tender and true, she embodies what patrons will enjoy about this show and have loved about its cinematic predecessor.

In all, Marriott’s artistic team, led by Aaron Thielen, has wrapped up the elements musical theater lovers most desire and placed a big red bow on top. It’s there under the tree, in vibrant 3-D, ready to be opened.

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” runs through January 1, 2012. Tickets are available at the 847-634-0200 or at ticketmaster.com.

About the author:
Barry Reszel is a Libertyville-based writer, at-home dad and executive director of the not-for-profit entertainment company Liberty Town Productions.