The Theatre Guide: White Christmas – John W. Engeman Theater – Theatre Review
Updated: Feb 11, 2022
Some of us may mark the approaching holiday season by the weather, or perhaps by the introduction of their favorite seasonal drink to their coffee shop’s menu- personally, I mark it by the live theater productions of my favorite holiday shows! This winter is welcomed by Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, running from November 11th to January 2nd. Directed by Matt Kunkel, this beloved classic is sure to leave you feeling merry and bright!
I grew up watching the iconic 1954 film version of this play starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. It is probably one of my favorite holiday movies of all time. The heartwarming story of two veteran friends who use their talent and influence to bring joy to their former General is the stuff that holiday cheer is made of for me. Oh, and there are love connections as well- what else does one need? Apparently, many moviegoers agree with me, and White Christmas was the highest grossing musical of its time, and is still consistently ranked among one of the top Christmas movies ever. This film to stage adaptation is a beautiful compliment to the legacy of this story, and has been captivating audiences since its premiere in 2000.
The cast at Engeman do a wonderful job making this show feel like an immersive celebration. The songs we all know (and are encouraged to sing along) are performed in a way that is both a compliment to the originals, but also not an attempt at straight replications. I appreciate how the performers made the songs their own- a beautiful example being Aaron Young (Bob Wallace) and Daniel Plimpton’s (Phil Davis) rendition of the show’s titular song. The iconic scenes receive the attention they should, and this show has something to add as a welcome addition to the story- it has a lot more dancing! Seriously, this is a dance heavy show and it was beautiful to behold! Drew Humphrey’s choreography artfully enhanced the character dynamics, especially between the captivating Daniel Plimpton and Darien Crago (Judy Haynes). The tap dancing in “I Love a Piano” was a special treat! Additionally, the play’s couples felt sincere and heartfelt; I was rooting for Aaron Young’s sincere yet stubborn Bob Wallace to win the heart of Meadow Nguy’s headstrong and passionate Betty Haynes. Add a moving and emotional performance of General Henry Waverly by Keith Lee Grant, and a touch of comedy with Suzanne Mason’s witty and charming version of Martha Watson, and you have me both laughing and loud and shedding my first tears in live theater history (It was the final scene that got me).
This show is such a wonderful holiday treat! While I love a show that can make me think and ponder, sometimes I just need a show that will make me nod and smile. “What do I care how much it may storm, I’ve got my love to keep me warm.”