This year I gave myself the gift of joy for Christmas - a ticket to Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" performed by the wonderful people at the Phoenix Theatre. My seat, second row center, was directly behind the only two empty seats on the front row - in other words, the best seat in the house! That was this afternoon - Christmas Eve.
This performance was the last of a three-week run, and the cast truly gave it their all.
"White Christmas" is a very simple story, sort of a Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney "Hey gang, let's put on a show!" show. But the storyline is the only simple element in the production. It has songs galore - many easily recognizable even nearly sixty years since the material was first staged. Songs, and dancing, beautiful sets, dancing, fanciful Christmas lighting, and did I mention dancing? More than a dozen talented hoofers, often in tap shoes, rocked the stage throughout the production.
The last time I saw dancing of that calibre was at the Bolshoi.
As with everything performed at the Phoenix Theatre, this was a thoroughly professional production - and highly, highly entertaining. I have seen several of the professional actors in other plays during my stay in Phoenix, and each and every one excelled in "White Christmas."
Johanna Carlisle, a familiar face throughout the Valley's theatrical venues, was a standout as Martha, the manager of the Vermont inn where the musical is set. I've seen her in several different plays, and this was the best of the bunch. Ms. Carlisle owns the stage with her comedic, dancing, and singing talents. My gawd, can that woman belt out a song!
The one bit of irony was a performance that ended with the line, "And may all your Christmases be white," was performed in Phoenix, Arizona!