The city of Chicago offers a lot to do for families looking to make their holidays a little more merry and bright, from Christkindlmarket to the Magnificent Mile’s holiday light extravaganza. You now can add one more spectacle to your holiday plans – "Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, the Musical," playing at the Cadlillac Palace Theatre through Dec. 3.
The limited-engagement run, based on the 1954 film White Christmas, tells the tale of two song-and-dance men who find themselves involved with a sister act stuck at a lodge in Vermont during a particularly balmy holiday season. It features well-known songs by songwriting legend Irving Berlin, such as "Blue Skies," "Happy Holidays," "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep" and, of course, the titular holiday standard.
Spectacle is the name of the game here, and director and choreographer Randy Skinner, scenic designer Anna Louizos, costume designer Carrie Robbins, lighting designer Ken Billington and sound designer Keith Caggiano have pulled out all the stops to present a visual feast to audiences. Musical director Michael Horsley provides a lavish accompaniment to an exuberant and entertaining evening.
The issue I have with musicals based on films is, often, the show is limited by the original material it is based on. But, in this case, like the movie that bears its name, "Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, The Musical" offers a ho-ho-ho hum plot that exists more to provide a showcase for the American Songbook legend’s tunes and the stunning voices and athletic prowess of its cast than anything else. Sean Montgomery, Kerry Conte, Jeremy Benton and Kelly Sheehan are rock-solid as the leads, with funny and touching performances by supporting actors Karen Ziemba, Conrad John Schuck, Cliff Bemis, Gil Brady and Makayla Joy Connolly. Schuck gives a particularly poignant performance as a former military general coming to grips with the fact his storied past is behind him, and the chemistry between Benton and Sheehan is hot enough to warm even the coldest, grinchiest hearts.
The ensemble is one of the hardest-working in recent productions I’ve seen. There are lavish dance numbers throughout the show, and the actors take on the challenge with energy and enthusiasm. The Act Two opener, "I Love a Piano," is a stunning tap number that left audiences cheering for several minutes. The final 15 minutes of the show provide a rousing and anthemic conclusion that creates a sense of heart-warming wonder that will stick with audiences for much longer than the plot of the show.
If there is one cloud over the production it is the noticeable lack of diversity in the cast. This is a "White Christmas" in more ways than one.
"Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, The Musical" is appropriate for audiences of all ages. If you’re looking to enhance your holiday spirit or want to rest your feet after a long day of shopping, the Cadillac Palace Theatre is the place to be.
• Jeff Cook has performed in and directed numerous stage productions in the area and spent more than 12 years in corporate communications. He is a long-time resident of McHenry County and resides in Crystal Lake.
"IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS"
WHEN: Through Dec. 3
WHERE: Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago
COST & INFO: Tickets start at $18. Tickets and information: www.broadwayinchicago.com