High-energy tap dancing. Classic Irving Berlin songs (including one dating back to 1915). Over 100 costumes. A title song that has sold more than 50 million copies.
Put them all together and you get White Christmas, the latest full-scale musical production by Footlighters Theatre Society, which runs Nov. 28-30 at Prince Charles Theatre.
“White Christmas is a timeless story that restores faith in the kindness of others: a truly magical combination of music, dancing, fantastic costumes, well-portrayed and varied personalities, comedy, misunderstandings, hope and love,” said Jacqui Vezina, who plays Betty Haynes. “It is hard to imagine someone not enjoying the show. And to quote my mom, ‘They’ll enjoy it just cuz you’re in it!’ “
The story follows the song-and-dance team of Bob Wallace (played by Adam Weaver) and Phil Davis (Tom Greentree) as they join forces with sister act Betty (Jacqui Vezina) and Judy Haynes (Christine Park) to stage a show that will keep retired Gen. Henry Waverly (Doug Johns) from losing his Vermont inn, where he lives with his doting housekeeper, Martha Watson (Yvonne Johns), and granddaughter, Susan (Kailynn Gill).
For some of the cast, bringing the adaptation of the 1954 film musical to life on the stage was the culmination of years of fandom.
“I have loved the movie version since I was a child,” said Vezina, whose previous roles include Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. “To have this opportunity to recreate a role that transported me away every holiday season is an honour. I believe at some moment in our life we have all felt a bit like Betty — hoping for the best in people, awkwardly learning to trust and love, and sometimes jumping to false conclusions.”
“Until this production, my exposure to White Christmas has been limited to the Hollywood production,” said Adam Weaver, who plays Betty’s love interest, Bob. “I have always loved singing to Bing Crosby because I feel we have similar voices and styles. Then when I read the character description in the script, I felt an immediate kinship to the character because it is very similar to who I am.”
This is the second Footlighters production for Weaver, who hails from Bonners Ferry, Idaho. He previously played in the ensemble of last year’s Oklahoma!, and is one of several newcomers to the stage, who have taken on the challenging score and dancing, led, respectively, by Leah Darby and Kate Webb, while accompanied by a 10-piece band.
“Many of the cast members, including myself, are novices to theatre,” said Weaver. “It has been wonderful watching everybody grow into their roles and see their confidence and abilities increase. I love seeing individuals come up with creative ideas of how something should go or look, and have it implemented in the production. Most of all, I enjoy the friendships that grow so quickly with individuals I’ve just barely met.”
He is sure the audience will appreciate the creativity inspired by the performers’ camaraderie as they demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas.
“If you truly look at the motivation behind the plot, it’s selfless: the bonds of friendship forged in hardship that leads individuals of great prominence to forgo their own ambitions to meet another’s needs, and the unintended blessings that spring from the altruistic actions,” he said. “I wish it were as easy to live that way in real life as it is to act it on stage.”