Norb Joerder favors a 1950s style approach to staging the show with curtain drops during the set changes. While I applaud his desire to bring an old-time quality to the show, it stops the show dead in its tracks and after some time, thanks to the numerous scene changes, it can feel like one spends more time looking at the blue curtain decorated with snowflakes than the actual sets. The pacing of Act I is also particularly slow, but to his credit, it does pick up in Act II. Kenneth Foy's scenic design and adaptation (based on Anna Louizos' Broadway designs - which were a highlight for me in a Broadway production I saw several years ago) is minimalist and although the sets do establish time and place and have an old-time quality, they are quite generic and not particularly conducive to the Kennedy Center Opera House stage. While the set may work for smaller venues, it leaves the Kennedy Center stage a bit empty. An effect at the end (where snow falls on the stage and on the audience) also loses something in the expansive Opera House.
The production fares better with its costumes, orchestra and choreography. Carrie Robbins' costumes plentiful costumes are time-period appropriate, visually interesting, and delectably colorful. The 18-piece orchestra plays Larry Blank's bright and brassy orchestrations with vigorous energy. The overall lack of energy in the production is certainly not the fault of this particular orchestra - in fact, the music emanating from the pit is perhaps reason alone to see this show. Randy Skinner's choreography is energetic and, at times, quite interesting. He's most successful with the tap numbers.
Overall, Irving Berlin's White Christmas is a step above your average holiday fare. Even if it left me wanting more, one does have to appreciate the music and dancing talent involved and any show which features Berlin's classic tunes is worthy of attention.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including an intermission.
Irving Berlin's White Christmas plays at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - 2700 F Street, NW in Washington, DC - through January 6, 2013. For tickets, call 202-467-4600 or purchase them online.
Photo Credit: Sharon Sipple.