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Dream about this 'White Christmas'


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

“;Irving Berlin's 'White Christmas'”; has “;gimmick”; written all over it. It's the Broadway musical version of a hit movie that was made to capitalize on the popularity of a song that had been a hit in another movie. The “;gimmick”; aspect notwithstanding, Diamond Head Theatre's production delivers everything a fan of traditional musical theater could ask for. A strong cast, masterful direction by DHT artistic director John Rampage and excellent production values throughout make it one of the 2009-10 theater season's best musicals.

Joshua Verde-Laguana (Bob Wallace) makes his Honolulu stage debut in top form. He distinguishes himself early in a big song-and-dance number, “;Happy Holiday/Let Yourself Go,”; with his male co-star, DHT veteran Kyle Malis (Phil Davis), and shows his appeal as a leading man later in scenes with Nicole Marie Sullivan (Betty Haynes).

Verde-Laguana and Sullivan share one of the show's biggest dramatic scenes playing lovers on the outs. She pours out a poignant touch song, “;Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me.”; He responds with “;How Deep Is the Ocean.”;

; The role of Betty is a great return to the spotlight for Sullivan. She's been around for years, but who knew she could sing like that?

Malis is joined by Kathryn Mariko Lee (Judy Haynes) in playing the other half of the core quartet. They're a stage musical “;cute couple”; for most of Act 1 and then tear things up after intermission as the stars of “;I Love a Piano.”; She tap-dances on a revolving piano while he does his stuff on the stage; other dancers join them on a set that we recognize as a piano keyboard; and then Malis and Lee wrap it up by dancing on a line of miniature (nonplaying) pianos.

The piano set is one of Willie Sabel's best creations as set and props designer. Rampage shares credit with Caryn Yee for the show's glorious choreography.

 

THE STORY is simplified for stage but sticks to the key points: Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, ex-GIs who are now a hot song-and-dance team, are tricked into auditioning a sister act. Sparks fly between Phil and Judy. Phil tricks Bob into going to the sisters' next engagement at a failing New England resort. The owner of the place is the guys' former commanding officer. They decide to help him by staging their show at the resort, using their connections to make a televised appeal to old Army buddies to come see it on Christmas Eve.

Misunderstandings occur. Relationships falter. It assays out as outstanding musical theater.

Allen Cole (Gen. Waverly) balances bluster and vulnerability in a winning performance. His final scene addressing “;the men”; becomes a stirring moment.

Lisa Konove (Martha Watson) does a great job with the major comic role and delivers “;Let Me Sing and I'm Happy”; with enough panache to deserve a “;hana hou!”; Fedrico Biven earns well-timed laughs as a laconic New Englander. He, too, makes the most of a musical spot.

Director Rampage adds some nice details. Watch Chris Villasenor “;miss”; a note in a scene in which he is “;playing”; piano onstage while musical director Emmett G. Yoshioka is playing the actual music in the pit. It's a great bit!

               

     

 

'IRVING BERLIN'S 'WHITE CHRISTMAS''

        » Where: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
       

» When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 23. Also at 3 p.m. Dec. 12 and 19 and at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21 to 23

       

» Tickets: $12 to $42; discounts available for active-duty military, people 62 and older, full-time students and anyone 17 or younger

       

» Call: 733-0274 or visit www.diamondheadtheatre.com