By: Joseph Szalinski
For millennia, societies have celebrated holidays by putting on a show. What once started as something rooted in ritual has now been transformed into a tradition all its own: supporting theatre. Particularly musicals, which are all the fun of enjoying Christmas carols, but far less invasive. The folks at The New Castle Playhouse have decided to help their community get in the spirit with their production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas the Musical, directed by Justin Bryan.
The play, which is based on a movie that is based on a song based on a dream famous composer Irving Berlin had, follows two soldiers, Bob Wallace (Mark McConnell) and Phil Davis (Connor Proctor), with a knack for performing who are determined to ditch the European Theater for Broadway. After breaking into the scene back home, the tenacious twosome become producers and stage their own successful production. From there they wind up in an unseasonably warm Vermont with their respective budding love interests, sisters, Betty (Kassie McConnell) and Judy Haynes (Cassidy Sprik); run into their former General (Dave Dougherty) who is struggling to run an inn; learn about friendship; and laugh and dance all the while.
This show features a sprawling cast crawling with talent, at their best during the slew of musical numbers peppered throughout the plot. Their collective adeptness at juggling the comedic and serious elements of the story, in addition to rhythmic proficiency, makes this show such a joy to watch.
Mark McConnell amazes as Bob Wallace, the former Broadway star who decides to get back into the arts after a close call overseas. Not only is he great at exploring the depths of his character sans soundtrack, but he is also a tremendous singer who finds himself in many of the show’s strongest songs.
Connor Proctor is a perfect complement in the role of Phil Davis, Bob’s younger partner/army buddy and regular ladies’ man. A brilliant vocalist and actor in his own right, he really shines in conjunction with his castmates and their respective dynamics, ranging from the heartfelt to the humorous.
Similarly, Kassie McConnell and Cassidy Spirk are wonderful as siblings Betty and Judy Haynes, both possessing an abundance of nuance and charm. A shared comfortability with the choreography of dance and drama perfectly showcases their skills onstage. As further testament of her talent, Kassie McConnell even provides the play its musical direction.
Rounding out the rest of the major players are T.V. executive/army buddy Ralph Sheldrake (Alex Chapman), overwhelmed housekeeper Martha Watson (Mandy Mays), the ambitious Susan Waverly (Sammie Patterson), twins of temptation Rita (Isabella Fellion) and Rhoda (Allyson Kremm), frantic Mike (Jason Pastore), and the ever necessary Tessie (Angela Fowler). A fantastic mix of charisma, commitment, and comedy, all supplemented by a solid ensemble.
Sets, effects, and costumes enhance an already entertaining production. Every aspect of the show is evident of the consideration and care the cast and crew took in crafting a piece of theatre that excites a community like presents under a tree.
White Christmas continues its run December 14th-17th at The New Castle Playhouse in New Castle, PA. For more information, click here.