Irving Berlin Irving Berlin's White Christmas (The Musical)
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- Released: October 17, 2006
- Label: Ghostlight
- 1.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Overture
- 2.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Happy Holiday
- 3.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Happy Holiday / Let Yourself Go
- 4.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Love And The Weather
- 5.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Sisters
- 6.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing
- 7.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Snow
- 8.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): What Can You Do With A General?
- 9.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Let Me Sing And I'm Happy
- 10.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep
- 11.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Blue Skies
- 12.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): I Love A Piano
- 13.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Falling Out Of Love Can Be Fun
- 14.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me / How Deep Is The Ocean
- 15.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): How Deep Is The Ocean (Reprise)
- 16.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): The Old Man
- 17.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): White Christmas
- 18.White Christmas, musical play (after the film): I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
Lyricist: Irving Berlin.
Personnel: Jeremy Benton, Sara Brians, Cliff Bemis, James Patterson, Tim Federle, Phillip Attmore, Anastasia Barzee, Jeffry Denman, Meredith Patterson, Kelli Barclay, Karen Morrow, Robin Campbell, Wendy James (vocals); Skaila Kanga (harp); Jim McLeod, Jonathan Evans Jones, Simon Baggs, Rolf Wilson, Manon Derome, Natalia Bonner, Roger Garland, Ian Humphries, Rita Manning (violin); Melissa Phelps, Jonathan Williams , Paul Kegg, Martin Loveday (cello); Philip Todd (flute, piccolo, clarinet, alto saxophone); Andy Panayi (flute, clarinet, alto saxophone); Dave Bishop (clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone); Jamie Talbot (clarinet, tenor saxophone); John Anderson (oboe); Julie Andrews (bassoon); John Barclay, Derek Watkins, Simon Gardner (trumpet); Richard Bissill (French horn); Mark Nightingale, Colin Sheen (trombone); Andy Wood (bass trombone); David Hartley (piano, toy piano, celesta); Steve McManus (acoustic bass); Frank Ricotti (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Joel Moss .
Recording information: Air Studios, London, England (06/2006-07/2006); Sear Sound, NY (06/2006-07/2006); Sears Sound, New York, NY (06/2006-07/2006); Times Square Recording Company (06/2006-07/2006).
Authors: Paul Blake; David Ives.
Director: Walter Bobbie.
Editor: Joel Moss .
Ensembles: Jeremy Benton; Cliff Bemis; James Patterson; Phillip Attmore; Robin Campbell; Wendy James.
Photographer: Richard Feldman.
Arranger: Bruce Pomahac.
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. ~ William Ruhlmann
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