For three weekends in November and December, Taylor Theatre presented the musical adaptation of Irving Berlin’s classic Christmas film, “White Christmas.” The production included a few songs from the 1954 movie, including “Sisters” and the titular “White Christmas.”
The show, set just after World War II, follows performers and veterans Bob Wallace (senior Michael Pierce) and Phil Davis (senior Steven Day) who connect with a sister act comprised of Betty (sophomore Carolyne Paschal) and Judy Haynes (senior Eleana Manning). The four craft a show to be presented on Christmas at a Vermont inn.
As a show many are familiar with, tapping into these characters presented unique challenges for the actors.
For Paschal, the challenge included finding the balance between her character and herself.
“Betty and I are interestingly similar in some ways,” Paschal said. “We're both pretty headstrong, decisive, opinionated. And that's kind of her role as the stereotypical responsible older sibling. But also, that is very different from me in a lot of ways. I mean, we're both performers, but she's very much a show girl. So tapping into a show girl of the 1950s, it's been a bit of a challenge for me, but it's an interesting challenge.”
Other characters gave the actors the ability to embody roles that subvert the typical expectations of a character in a musical.
Sophomore Cade Rogers played General Waverly, a war veteran and inn owner.
“For Waverly, it's odd to play him in a musical because he doesn't act like a traditional musical character,” Rogers said. “He's the guy who doesn't sing and doesn't dance and doesn't understand things. Any other character in the musical can jump into song just like that, and that's how they express themselves. With Waverly, it’s more grounded and realistic.”
For some ensemble actors playing multiple characters, switching between roles throughout the show adds its own dynamic, requiring the actor to make different decisions about each of their characters.
Senior Megan Arnone played multiple smaller roles throughout the show, giving her the chance to portray each character’s personality quickly.
“Playing a lot of small characters is harder than you would think, just because I only have so much time to portray that person as a full dynamic person than what a lead does,” Arnone said. “It's not to say that a lead’s job isn't hard. It definitely is. But you have to portray an entire dynamic person within maybe two or three minutes.”
In addition to the unique character challenges, the show also offered many technical challenges behind the stage.
Along with being an ensemble member, Arnone was Master Carpenter for both this show and “The Birds,” performed by Taylor Theatre in September.
“This is my first big musical that I've been Master Carpenter,” Arnone said. “And so that in itself has been really hard just because there are multiple, probably several dozen places that we move to throughout the show. And so having set pieces that can delineate all of those different places has been a lot.”
The movie is a classic Christmas story enjoyed by many on an annual basis.
For much of the cast, this opportunity to engage the show gave them a closer connection to the movie.
“I know it's a Christmas classic for a lot of people and it's like the movie that they watch every Christmas. That's not the case for me,” Rogers said. “My mom loves it, but I think I've only seen it once. Now I can appreciate it more because I can relate to the characters more, I guess. I'm learning to really love it again.”