Bobby Conte, Jillian Prefach Baker, Brittany Carricato Cox, & Matthew Brennan in White Christmas. Photo: DPP

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Book by David Ives & Paul Blake
Based on the 1954 Paramount movie
Music & lyrics by Irving Berlin
Directed by Lee Buckholz

A review by Brian Kennedy

Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.

In time for the holiday season, Derby Dinner Playhouse presents the spirited musical Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

White Christmas, which Lee Buckholz produced and directed, features Bob Wallace and Phil Davis (Bobby Conte and Matthew Brennan, respectively), privates during WWII and, later, a popular singing and dancing duo. They meet the up-and-coming duo the Haynes Sisters, Betty (Jillian Prefach Baker) and Judy (Brittany Carricato Cox). Soon, the four travel to and try to help, via performing a musical revue, a struggling Vermont inn owned and operated by Wallace and Davis’ former General Henry Waverly (Clay Smith). 

The set has movable, simple props or set pieces like tables, chairs, and musical instruments. The costumes are either uniforms for the soldiers or dresses and suits appropriate for the 1940s and 50s. Each scene is designed so that every audience member had at least a decent view of what was happening.

The four leads showcased great chemistry with each other. Baker and Cox are very believable as sisters,  performing the song “Sisters” with excellent harmony and movement. Conte’s Wallace, meanwhile, is a good de facto straight man during the plans and antics of Brennan’s Davis. All four voices match up very well in the inspired rendition of “Snow”. 

The singing is of high quality in White Christmas, especially during the Act I closing “Blue Skies”, which features clear and well-executed vocals and movement from the ensemble while several storylines played out within the song. 

The dancing is a joy to watch, especially during the extended dance sequence of Act II opener “I Love a Piano”. What starts with Phil and Judy around an obviously fake piano soon explodes into nearly the entire ensemble taking part in an extended dance sequence. As the performers dance on the entire stage, including on the piano, the smiles on their faces look authentic and there was just an extra bit of energy in their steps. Credit to the choreographer Heather Paige Folsom for that fun work.

The best overall performance, though, came from Elizabeth Loos as Martha Watson, a former performer who now helps Waverly run the inn, during “Let Me Sing” and “I’m Happy”. Leading up to this point, Loos nails the one-liners while also infusing Martha with enough deadpan humor and sarcasm to get the audience to at least focus on her. Once “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” starts, Loos uses a loud, full voice and plenty of strutting in her movement to show her true performance chops. It’s a performance that would go over the top if handled by a lesser talent, but Loos keeps it reigned in and effective, leading to much-deserved laughs and applause from the audience.

From start to finish, the Derby Dinner Playhouse production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is a well-paced, entertaining show with plenty of laughs, wonderful singing, and fun dancing throughout.

White Christmas

November 16 – December 31, 2022

Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, Indiana 47129

Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for and from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.