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December 7, 2010 > Theatre Review: White Christmas for holiday grins

Theatre Review: White Christmas for holiday grins

Submitted By Knuti Van Hoven
Photos By Bennett Barouch

Mission San Jose High School in Fremont is offering a bright and cheery holiday confection: Irving Berlin's musical Valentine to the Christmas Spirit, White Christmas. This is the stage version of the movie classic, starring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Lynn. It's been recreated with brilliant, 1950's style costumes, Monica Kraft's live orchestra and a cast and crew of over 50. Together they offer a romp that's both funny and heartwarming.

The story is set in 1954. Karthik Raman and Jonathan Barouch, two ex-GI's (now a nightclub buddy-act) meet a very attractive sister act: Lizzy Bode and Amy Mendonca. They follow the girls to their next job at a quaint New England Inn, which promises oodles of snow, sleigh bells and cider for a perfect, Christmas card holiday. Instead they find a heat wave in Vermont, and an inn on the verge of bankruptcy. Worse, that inn is owned by the stern but fatherly general, played by Erik Scilley, who pulled the boys through WW2.

The general has no idea that his quirky but lovable housekeeper (Shivani Ariathurai) has been hiding huge stacks of unpaid bills that arrive in each day's mail in a misguided effort to save what's left of his pride. The show people enlist the help of his precocious granddaughter, played by the irrepressible Stephanie Hom and a cast of 24 show biz volunteers as old Army pals try to save the General's livelihood by publicizing and putting on a Broadway variety show in five days.

I can tell you from personal experience. It can be done, but it AIN'T easy.

The show is funny, with some great moments delivered by Jonathan Barouche and Lizzie Bode as Phil and Judy. It is brimming with some of Irving Berlin's greatest hits, including "Happy Holidays", "White Christmas", and the show-stopping "Sisters" which had the audience laughing so loudly they were rocking in their seats.

Other highlights of the show included Karthik Raman 's clear, warm voiced rendition of "Blue Skies" beautifully set off by Justin Isla's Fred Astaire-reminiscent, 1950's style choreography and a fabulous looking chorus, all clad in white tuxedos. Between numbers there were lots of fun bits from a supporting cast ranging from the bucolic Ezekiel (Hank Huang) to the bubbly (and leggy) blonde "Buy Oxydol" Twins (Marie Anderson and Noa Kretchmer).

This is a show that's unpolished. Theatre Director Anne Riley trains these kids by giving student directors real responsibilities, making key decisions in character interpretation, tech, costuming, lighting; the works. It's an educational opportunity very few schools offer, so you won't get a stage version that looks like the lifetime achievement of 50-year-old pros backed by state of the art equipment and limitless funding. Instead, every night and every performance is an adventure, with lots of unpredictable moments, but the show goes on, with tons of energy and vitality.

When you greet the Season with White Christmas, you'll be supporting a great school program and walk out with a big holiday grin on your face.


White Christmas
December 10, 16, 18
8 p.m.
December 11 and 18
2 p.m.
Mission San Jose High School Little Theatre
41717 Palm Avenue, Fremont
(510) 668-6077
up.msjhs@gmail.com

General Admission: $12
Seniors/children under 12: $10
On-line tickets at www.msjpups.org

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