Gateway’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas brings together two brilliant Long Island natives—director David Ruttura and choreographer Mary Giattino—who are no strangers to the Gateway family, both began their successful Broadway careers at the barn in Bellport.
Based on the 1954 film of the same name, which featured Hollywood legends Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney, White Christmas tells the tale of war buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, turned stage performers. Through a series of events, they take on the task of saving their general’s failing Vermont Inn. Alongside the sister act of Betty and Judy Haynes—played by Trista Moldovan and Alissa Alter—they plan to put on a production that will put their beloved general back in business for good. We see Betty and Judy in action for the first time in the laughter inducing number “Sisters” where they dance around with giant feather fans—hilarious! After the guys watch the Haynes’ performance, Judy and Phil hatch a plan to get Betty and Bob together by tricking Bob into getting on the train to Vermont.
Christopher Vettel and Matthew LaBanca take on the roles of the charming song and dance duo. When Vettel, as Bob Wallace, begins to croon, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” the warmth of his rich voice will melt your heart. LaBanca as the carefree, fun-loving Phil Davis is a true charmer with some fine tap-dancing feet. One of my favorite numbers was the lively “I Love a Piano,” where Phil and Judy lead a tap dancing routine that had my toes twitching. Not only are LaBanca and Alter ridiculously good tap dancers, but they also make a wonderful duo, staying in sync with both their feet and their voices.
General Henry Waverly is played by the familiar face of Steve Brady, who we saw this past summer as Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady. As the gruff but loveable General, Waverly is once again a treat to watch. His secretary and housekeeper Martha Watson, played by the talented Beth Glover, is a fun-loving, no-nonsense lady who will make you cackle with her playful jokes and spot-on timing.
In the midst of putting on a production that will save the inn, there is love a-brewing between the Phil and Judy and Bob and Betty. Judy is the more carefree sister, so she and Phil hit it off right away, while Betty and Bob take a bit longer to admit their feelings for each other. As Betty Haynes, Trista Moldovan is serene, beautiful, with a voice that instantly creates a hush over the room. No one wants to interrupt the beauty of her singing. Her solo number “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” is sultry and spellbinding. Bob can’t help but be drawn to her, and I found myself rooting for the star-crossed lovers who encounter many obstacles on their mutual journey towards love.
What’s a Christmas show without some caroling? We all know the words to “White Christmas,” and who doesn’t like to be a part of the show, especially with such a talented cast? Although in the beginning it seems the Vermont winter would let everyone down, but with so many people wishing (and singing!) for a white Christmas, how could it not come true?
The folks at Gateway went all out with this production, bringing the set in from Broadway. The multiple backdrops were huge and so vivid—it’s truly enchanting, the way Christmas comes to life. Once again Gateway transports us from Long Island to Broadway, without the long ride. The huge production numbers in the show are Broadway caliber, a fact that can be attested to by the talent on stage as well as behind the scenes.
The snow was so realistic that at the end I expected to walk outside and see snow on the ground. At least we can dream.
Gateway’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is playing at the Patchogue Theatre through December 30. For tickets and information visit www.gatewayplayhouse.com.