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  • Angela Allyn

Old Fashioned Holiday Sweetness at Music Theater Works

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is a classic music theater piece that reminds us of one of the Greatest Generation storylines: the bonds that formed in World War II were deep ones for men, and the holidays are a good time to show people you care. For this holiday season, Music Theater Works is serving up a bountiful buffet of cheer, Berlin’s iconic tunes and a whole lot of big beautiful dance numbers at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts and it’s entertainment for all the generations in your clan.

Director Sasha Gerritson and choreographer Clayton Cross have harked back to the original era and it serves nostalgia and this production well. Tommy Thurston’s Bob Wallace and Jimmy Hogan’s Phil Davis are the kind of bright show biz fellows that came out of the war and went to Broadway and beyond. The not so famous but soon to be Hayes Sisters (played by Kelly Britt and Anna Marie Abbate) are well matched creative collaborators and suitable romantic partners. While the plot here differs in several ways from the movie, the basics remain the same. Two well known male performers are encouraged to check out a platoon buddy’s talented sisters and when Phil’s romantic interests have them following them up to snowless Vermont instead of Miami, it turns out their former General is their innkeeper who is sidelined and struggling. While Phil is wooing Judy, Bob and Betty are not hitting it off. Or are they? It all works out well in the end, they put on a big show and the entire division shows up to support the General and of course it finally snows in the end. In the world created by Music Theatre Works it all comes together with dazzling costumes many of which echo the film versions (by Elizabeth Monti) and a full orchestra helmed by Roger Bingamen. The highlight of the show is the dancing: big ensemble pieces that fill the stage with joy and bring cheers from the audience. We don’t get to see this kind of dancing often enough live.

This is a beautifully crafted rendition of a beloved work of American musical theater,so skip the crowds and the expensive parking downtown and take the whole family to Skokie: Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is playing Wednesdays through Sundays through New Year’s Day at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie. For tickets and more information go to

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