"Irving Berlin's White Christmas," BYU Music Dance Theatre Program, Pardoe Theatre, through Dec. 3, $15-$21, 801-422-4322 or byuarts.com/tickets.
PROVO — It took Bing Crosby a mere 18 minutes to record the "White Christmas" single, but his yuletide favorite is the bestselling recording of all time.
In 2008, the nostalgic song became part of the title of a Broadway musical that is loosely patterned after the treasured 1954 Paramount Pictures hit. The film "White Christmas" was tailor-written for its popular stars: Crosby is joined by Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.
The stage show, named "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" as an indicator of the additional songs, is a truncated version of the endearing story from the film and can be appreciated as a revue of the masterful composer's achievements.
At BYU, director George D. Nelson shows dedication to make "White Christmas" a tune-filled, family-friendly production. It's an affectionate staging of the classic songs, and when the cast (and audience, at the show's beginning) sings the title song, there's a warm reminder of a true love for Christmas.
Each time the cast sings, under musical direction by Mark Johnson, the songs are a joy to hear, in nicely varied arrangements.
But rivaling Berlin as the star of this show is Lisa Stoddard's energetic choreography for both the soloists and the hardworking double sextet of ensemble dancers. The high-stepping, attractive performers deserve to be named individually — Ashley Haycock, Cooper Sutton, Lawrence Fernandez, Leslie Hiatt, Mckenzie Morgan, Oyoyo Bonner, Reba Johnson, Robert Fujiki, Spencer Stevens, Tanner Dewaal, Taryn Huber and Tyler Hatch. They dance up a storm. (They also dance with the wheeled scenery!)
The lead roles require honest-to-goodness triple threats, full of star power as singers and dancers, and complemented by impactful acting. It's a tremendous challenge to re-create the star personalities from the film, especially with this hopeless script. Christopher Brand as the character perfected by Crosby and Michael Milkanin in the fanciful skirt-chasing Kaye role are skilled dancers. Brand leads the chorus in "Blue Skies" and Milkanin in a splendid "I Love a Piano," a Tin Pan Alley gem. With his onstage enthusiasm, Milkanin seems to be encouraging Brand to completely enjoy their roles.
As the Haynes sisters that the two veteran showmen promote, Brittany Worley and Kate Bailey present fully formed characters and sing and dance with vigor. Their "Sisters" duet is a delight, and Worley's torchy "Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me" is a standout. Bailey is Brand's partner in a terrific "The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing" and together they open Act 2 with their rousing dance.
For additional material in this remix of the Berlin songbook, even the desk clerk and a visiting-from-school youngster in the struggling lodge for which the performers encourage business want to be in show business. Jennifer Stewart gives a plum performance as the busybody inn assistant, shining in "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy." Stewart also joins Worley and Bailey for a gleeful "Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun."
Ed Eyestone is the right age to play the innkeeper and Beth Lloyd appears to be the right age for his granddaughter.
For making the most of a small role, Andrew Joy as the harried stage manager needs to be cited for his welcome addition to this BYU audience-pleasing show.