From left, Kerry Conte and Kelly Sheehan perform the classic “Sisters.” (Courtesy Jeremy Daniel)

‘White Christmas’ a holiday song-and-dance treat

“Irving Berlin” are the two operative words in the show title “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.”

The musical onstage at the Golden Gate Theatre boasts great tunes by one of America’s foremost composers, excellent performers that do them justice, and plenty of holiday glitz.

The story (book by David Ives and Paul Blake). however, feels as dated as the 1954 movie with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney on which the production is based.

But even though the corny jokes, “let’s put on a show” plot and meet cute couples (military buddies Bob and Phil who hook up with siblings Betty and Judy) are anything but fresh, as is their plan to save the Vermont inn owned by their former Army general, it doesn’t matter.

The fantastic tunes with great orchestrations played by a great band (led by Michael Horsley), the sparkly sets and costumes, and no-holds-barred musical sequences make up for the thin premise.

Some numbers are taken directly from the movie: Kerry Conte as Betty (the Clooney role) and Kelly Sheehan as Judy delightfully re-create the dance with blue feather fans in “Sisters,” and Sean Montgomery as Bob (the Crosby part) warbles (with Conte) a lovely version of the truly touching “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep.”

Jeremy Benton as Phil and Sheehan gorgeously float across the floor in “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,” and, of course, the famous title song gets a sturdy rendition.

But director-choreographer Randy Skinner pumps the proceedings with even more: The versatile chorus girls and boys — sorry we can’t mention all their names here — really go to town (tap, jazz, soft shoe) in irresistible Busby Berkeley-style numbers “Happy Holidays/Let Yourself Go,” “Blue Skies” and “I Love a Piano.”

Rounding out the fun are stage, TV and screen veteran Conrad John Schuck as the general; Lorna Luft (Judy Garland’s daughter!) as his brassy concierge, and twins Clancy and Samantha Penny alternating as his adorable granddaughter.

The minute the blond youngster hits the stage, you know it’s only a matter of time before she brings down the house; on opening night, it was Clancy who belted the reprise to Luft’s spotlight anthem, “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy.”

REVIEW
Irving Berln’s White Christmas
Where: Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Fridays, 2 p.m. Thursday, noon and 5:50 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; closes Dec. 24
Tickets: $45 to $214
Contact: www.shnsf.comGolden Gate TheatreIrving Berlin's White ChristmasJeremy BentonKelly SheehanKerry ConteLorna LuftSean MontgomeryTheater

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