By Kathy Guyer
**** of 5 Stars
Whether ready to start dreaming of a "White Christmas," the Drury Lane Theatre's stage adaptation of this holiday classic opened Nov. 5 in Oakbrook Terrace and is already thrilling fans of the 1954 movie.
With direction by William Osetek, the beautiful music and lyrics of Irving Berlin and book by David Ives and Paul Blake, the stage is set for a magical night at the theater.
Many know the story that begins at an army camp in Europe during World War II on Christmas Eve 1944.
Army Capt. Bob Wallace (played by the strikingly handsome Sean Allen Krill) and his later-to-be show biz buddy Private Phil Davis (aptly handled by the sweet-footed song and dance man, Matt Raftery) are performing a holiday show for the troops, all while the sounds of war surround them.
When their no-nonsense General Henry Waverly (portrayed by the always steady Don Forston) appears, the show is cut short. But a softer side of this stern military man is revealed to the audience, if not to the GIs.
Jump ahead 10 years and the team billed as Wallace and Davis has risen to great stage fame. They agree, through a bit of trickery by Phil Davis, to attend a performance of the Haynes sisters, and the sparks begin to fly.
Phil and the blonde-haired beauty Betty Haynes (Gina Milo), immediately strike a chord that results in a lovely dance to the tune of "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing." Meanwhile, Bob Wallace and Betty's red-headed sister Judy Haynes (Erica Stephan) are having a bit of a tussle over intentions and ethics back at the lounge table.
Again, Phil uses a bit of deceit to get his partner and him on the same train to Vermont as the Haynes sisters.
Expecting snow for the holiday themed show, they find themselves in a 70-something degree "heat wave." Coincidentally, the Columbia Inn at which the sister duo was to perform is owned by the very same army general Bob and Phil had served under.
A lot of scheming and work is done by the now confidants, Bob and Phil and Judy and Betty, to stage a show in the inn's barn to bring in an audience, and some money, to their former leader.
Calamity ensues, in no small measure by the involvement of the meddling, eaves-dropping and simply hilarious front desk clerk, Martha Watson (expertly handled by the Ethel Mermin-sounding Alene Robertson). Robertson has a talent beyond measure for delivering a line or a look that makes her point.
Some other great performances come in the form of Ezekiel, the guy who "came with the barn" and has no other reason to be in this show but to make the audience laugh. Played with expert reserve by Dale Benson, he speaks few words, but leaves the audience in stitches with his patience and comedic timing.
Maya Lou Hlava, alternately played by Avery Moss, deliveries a beautiful voice and performance as General Waverly's granddaughter, Susan.
Choreographer Matt Crowle, who also plays a couple parts in the show, does an outstanding job of producing beautiful and energetic dance numbers, not the least of which is the Act II opening number, "I Love a Piano," that gives Raftery, Milo and the ensemble a chance to showcase their true talents.
With scenic design by Kevin Depinet, costumes by Robert Kuhn and the always wonderful Drury Lane orchestra directed by Roberta Duchak, this is a show that makes audiences laugh, feel swept away by the many ambitious dance scenes and melts the hearts of even the most Scrooge-prone theater goers.
While staying true to the theme of the movie, which starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, this show does not follow that story exactly, but it does maintain the spirit of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," which is just fine for this stage.