White Christmas is an old-fashioned musical tied up with a big holiday bow. The wrapping is a goofy Hollywood “let’s put on a show” boys-meet-girls plot with flashy dance numbers. The true gift inside is a showcase of 18 classic Irving Berlin songs.
Now in a limited Broadway Series run at the Community Center Theater, White Christmas is a tribute to Berlin’s long songwriting career, including his Tin Pan Alley days, Broadway musicals and hit radio songs. The thin plot honors Berlin’s influence on the generation that grew up with his music, embraced his sentimental songs during World War II and welcomed Berlin’s show tunes in the ’40s and ’50s.
The plot starts with soldiers Bob and Phil entertaining World War II troupes and jumps to their eventual career as successful song-and-dance men. The high jinks take off when the two showbiz buddies meet musical sister act Betty and Judy and they all head up to Vermont to put on a holiday show to save a floundering inn. The show ends with a rousing rendition of “White Christmas,” complete with falling snow and audience participation.
Sure, the plot is predictable, the dialogue cheesy, and the lines spoken with over-the-top bright-eyed enthusiasm, but that’s what makes it so endearing. The four stars (Michael Gruber, Greg McCormick Allen, Christina Saffran Ashford, and Tari Kelly) twinkle with singing and dancing talent, and the cast is animated and energetic, especially in impressive tap-dancing numbers. Two lesser characters steal the spotlight—Carol Swarbrick as the innkeeper with Ethel Merman lungs and Olivia Spokoiny as the spunky granddaughter—but the real stars are the songs.