Friday, December 2, 2016

MMT's 'White Christmas' Is What It Does Best

Finale of "White Christmas" at Mill Mountain Theatre.
Irving Berlin's classic "White Christmas," playing through Dec. 18, is the kind of production that Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke excels at presenting. It is a recognizable play, a musical, a big and expensive production. Professional actors are brought in from New York (to mingle with a few locals); costumes and sets are lavish; music is spot-on; lighting and sound are flawless.

Margie and I loved the play (my newsboy hat did, too).
And it works for the mostly older, well-heeled crowds it attracts (the kind that support the theater's efforts all year with financial contributions).

This year's Christmas feature is everything you have come to expect from MMT. The production is thoroughly entertaining in every facet.

The lead actors who get most of the attention--Patrick Shaw, Guy Mannick, Carlyn Connolly and Katherine Gentsch--have superb resumes (Mannick and Connolly are Actors Equity; Gentch and Shaw are notable)--are just right. The large ensemble cast (23 people in all, including a couple of familiar locals, Chris Shepard and young talent Olivia Goodman) sing, dance and act like they know what they're doing. I was, frankly, taken aback at the number of costume changes and the quality of the workmanship. Same with the sets: just marvelous.

Director/choreographer Eileen Grace deserves a special bow for bringing all these fine elements together into a solid entertainment package.

The original "White Christmas" was one of two movies in the late 1940s-early 1950s to feature the title song (the other was "Holiday Inn") and basically the same plot and almost everybody has seen it in one genre or another. MMT's regional theater version is the kind of production that is the foundation of its success and frankly, nobody else in this region does it nearly as well--or should.

It is a real highlight of the Christmas season.

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