Irving Berlin's White Christmas

Irving Berlin's White Christmas

by Irving BerlinIrving Berlin




Irving Berlin may have been the best songwriter of the 20th century; he was certainly the best song publisher. Running his own company and promoting his own copyrights, Berlin was an expert at exploitation, finding new ways to sell old songs. One of his best ideas was to come up with, package, and sell to a studio a new movie musical that would feature both newly written material and some of his evergreens. Examples include Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938) and Blue Skies (1946), but Berlin really worked his recycling magic to perfection in 1954, when he managed to get into movie theaters both White Christmas and There's No Business Like Show Business within months of each other, the former in October, the latter in December. White Christmas was a sort of rough sequel to an earlier Berlin film that had employed all-new songs, Holiday Inn (1942). In that picture, Bing Crosby had played a song-and-dance man who runs a New England hotel open only on holidays; Fred Astaire was his sometime partner and rival in romantic matters. Of course, the major hit from the film was "White Christmas." Originally, White Christmas the movie was intended to re-pair Crosby and Astaire as a couple of song-and-dance men who were also World War II veterans in a plot that found them rescuing the fortunes of a New England hotel run by their old general while also wooing two sisters who had their own musical act (an act strongly reminiscent of the disbanded Clooney Sisters, with still-active Rosemary Clooney playing one sister and Vera-Ellen the other). By the time of production, Astaire had been replaced by Donald O'Connor, who had been replaced by Danny Kaye. The result was an enormous hit: White Christmas was by far the highest grossing movie released in 1954, and a Decca Records album featuring Crosby, Kaye, and Peggy Lee (standing in for Clooney, who was exclusively contracted to Columbia Records) hit number two in the charts, with the new songs "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," "Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me," and "Sisters" gaining the greatest renown among the new Berlin compositions in a score filled out with such oldies-but-goodies as "Blue Skies," "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy," and, inevitably, "White Christmas." Now, fast-forward 46 years. Inspired by Paramount Pictures, owner of the movie, and the Irving Berlin Music Company, owner of the music, the St. Louis Municipal Opera, in the summer of 2000, produced a stage adaptation of White Christmas. The production was not so significant in itself as in the interest it awoke in a Broadway producer, who brought in a creative team led by director Walter Bobbie to revamp it entirely. The idea was not to take the show to Broadway, it was to create a show that could play in cities around the country during the holiday season. And so it did. The new White Christmas (or, as the producer chose to call it, Irving Berlin's White Christmas: The Musical) opened at the Curran Theater in San Francisco in November 2004. It played in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston in 2005. In 2006, it was scheduled to run in Detroit and St. Paul. Although technically it must be considered a studio cast recording, since it is not based on any individual production, this album features all four of the original lead performers from the 2004 San Francisco production, each of them a Broadway veteran: Brian d'Arcy James (Tony Award-nominated for The Sweet Smell of Success) as Bob Wallace, the Crosby role; Jeffry Denman as Phil Davis, the Kaye role; Anastasia Barzee as Betty Haynes, the Clooney role; and Meredith Patterson as Judy Haynes, the Vera-Ellen role. Karen Morrow, in the secondary part of Martha Watson, has a Broadway career dating back to 1964 and was in the St. Louis and Boston productions. As might be expected for a score that was an anthology to begin with, the song selection has been altered from the film, with a number of minor songs ("I'd Rather See a Minstrel Show," "Choreography," "Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army") jettisoned, and a batch of other Berlin hits ("Let Yourself Go," "I Love a Piano," "How Deep Is the Ocean," "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm") interpolated, along with some lesser known tunes from the Berlin catalog ("Love and the Weather," "Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun"). That punches up the album considerably, but it adds to the sense that, as a strictly aural experience, White Christmas isn't much more than a Berlin hits collection sung by some talented singers. A few of the songs, such as "Sisters" and "What Can You Do with a General?," tangentially touch upon the plot, but most are just good songs. They are given fresh arrangements, and they are performed well. (It's notable that the principals make no attempt to sound like the movie stars; James' tenor is nothing like Crosby's baritone, for example.) But as an album, White Christmas never succeeds in being anything more than what it was no doubt intended to be, a musical souvenir that may interest audience members attending one of the many productions of the show.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/17/2006
Label: Ghostlight
UPC: 0791558122527
catalogNumber: 81225

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Irving Berlin   Primary Artist
Derek Watkins   Trumpet
Wendy James   Vocals,Ensemble
John Barclay   Trumpet
Kelli Barclay   Vocals,Tap Dance
Dave Bishop   Clarinet,Bass Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Robin Campbell   Vocals,Ensemble
Simon Gardner   Trumpet
Roger Garland   Violin,Leader
Skaila Kanga   Harp
Paul Kegg   Cello
Martin Loveday   Cello
Rita Manning   Violin
Mark Nightingale   Trombone
Frank Ricotti   Percussion
Colin Sheen   Trombone
Jamie Talbot   Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Philip Todd   Clarinet,Flute,Piccolo,Alto Saxophone
Richard Bissill   French Horn
Steve McManus   Acoustic Bass
David Hartley   Piano,Celeste,Toy Piano
Rolf Wilson   Violin
Ian Humphries   Violin
Andy Panayi   Clarinet,Flute,Alto Saxophone
Rob Berman   Conductor
James Patterson   Vocals,Ensemble
Brian d'Arcy James   Vocals
Andy Wood   Bass Trombone
Jeffry Denman   Vocals,Tap Dance,Track Performer
Karen Morrow   Vocals,Track Performer
Meredith Patterson   Vocals,Tap Dance,Track Performer
Natalia Bonner   Violin
Manon Derome   Violin
Cliff Bemis   Vocals,Ensemble
Sara Brians   Vocals,Tap Dance
John Anderson   Oboe,Cor anglais
Simon Baggs   Violin
Melissa Phelps   Cello
Anastasia Barzee   Vocals,Track Performer
Phillip Attmore   Vocals,Ensemble
Jeremy Benton   Vocals,Ensemble
White Christmas Orchestra   Performing Ensemble
Tim Federle   Vocals,Tap Dance
Mark Ledbetter   Vocals
Stefanie Morse   Vocals
Jennifer Mathie   Vocals
Kevin Worley   Vocals
Brent McBeth   Vocals
Melissa Mahon   Vocals
Kristen Beth Williams   Vocals
Julie Andrews   Bassoon
Katie Kerwin   Vocals
Jennifer Prescott   Vocals
Shannon O'Bryan   Vocals
James McLeod   Violin
Randy Skinner   Vocals
Vincent III Rodriguez   Vocals
Jonathan Evans-Jones   Violin
Kristie Kerwin   Vocals
Pilar Milhollen   Vocals
Drew Humphrey   Vocals
Beth Crosby   Vocals
Jonathan Williams   Cello

Technical Credits

Irving Berlin   Composer,Lyricist
Joel Moss   Producer,Engineer,Engineering
Larry Blank   Orchestration
Rolf Wilson   Orchestra Leader
Walter Bobbie   Director
Bruce Pomahac   Arranger,Vocal Arrangements,Dance Arrangement
Theodore S. Chapin   Liner Notes
Rob Berman   Producer,Music Direction
Jan Folkson   Engineer,Engineering
David Ives   Author,Book
Kurt Deutsch   Executive Producer
Kevin McCollum   Executive Producer
Carrie Robbins   Costume Design
Jay Binder   Casting
Paul Blake   Author,Book
Wayne Blood   Music Librarian
Anika Chapin   Synopsis,Plot Synopsis
Ted Chapin   Executive Producer

Customer Reviews