White Christmas Charms at DalekoArts in New Prague

Located about 45 minutes south of the cities is the sleepy little town of New Prague. One of the last things you expect to find there is a high quality professional theatre company. But, that’s exactly what you’ll find for it’s the home of DalekoArts, which has delighted me with every show I’ve seen. This Holiday season they are presenting Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and once again I can say without reservation it’s worth the drive. DalekoArts has brought the classic film to life in a show that bustles with energy and style. It’s corny in all the best ways, filled with Berlin’s great songs and has just about the most endearing child performance since Ronny Howard says the “Wells Fargo Wagon is a comin!” in the film of The Music Man.

For those who are unfamiliar with the 1954 film starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, here are the basics. The show opens on Christmas 1944, Captain Bob Wallace and Private Phil Davis are putting on a show for their fellow troops under the command of General Henry Waverly. You can tell the General cares for his men and they would follow him anywhere. With that history established we flashforward 10 years; Bob and Phil have stuck together and now are famous performers. After an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show they’re about to catch a train to Florida to began rehearsing a new show. On the way to the train station they stop off at a nightclub to catch a singing sister act that they might have space for in their show. Phil and Judy hit it off right away, Bob and Betty not so much. But Phil and Judy decide to trick Bob into going to Vermont where the girls are headed to perform over Christmas at an Inn. Once there, they discover the Inn has lost most of its bookings because despite being almost Christmas the weather is in the 70’s and so all the skiers and winter vacationers pick up and head to cooler locations. When they’re about to leave they discover that their old commanding officer owns the Inn and they decide to stay on and with the help of the General’s mangeress Martha, and his eight year old Granddaughter Susan, mount a show that they will invite their old army comrades to. Love, laughs, and song ensue, complicated by a healthy dose of misunderstandings.

Playing Bob is DalekoArts co-founder Ben Thietje who has the look and sound of a classic film musical star from the golden age of film, he reminds me a bit of Dick Powell. He’s very at ease on stage and has a great singing voice. Audrey Johnson plays Betty, who also looks right at home in the era, I see a little Barbara Stanwyck in her. These two should team up next season for a noir influenced crime thriller. The whole cast is just great whether singing, dancing or just acting. There are a couple of performers I want to make note of though. Eve Scharback as Susan the Generals eight year old granddaughter is just delightful, she doesn’t seem to have a self conscious bone in her body and feels totally natural onstage, and she’s a really good singer too, audiences are going to just eat her up. Honestly, one of the main reasons I drove to Daleko in the winter over the busiest few weeks of the fall theatre season was to see a favorite performer Shanan Custer, I’ve been enjoying her performances with the Mysterious Old radio Listening Society for years and just loved her in Finger Lickin Good at MN Fringe Festival this last summer. Of course she doesn’t disappoint here either, she’s the perfect harried Innkeeper who has to try and keep the bad news from the General as much as she can. We also get to hear her sing which is a really fun song that she pulls of with ease. As an added bonus there were a couple of voice over cameos by Eric Webster and Lauren Anderson that made me smile.

The Music Direction by Christopher J. Stordalen and the five piece band that bring the songs to life sounds like a larger ensemble, you don’t want for anything more musically, it’s a very tight sounding group. The show is directed by the other founder of DalekoArts Amanda White who really pulled off this adaptation as it had the feel of those old song and dance let’s put on a show films. Scenic Design/Carpenter/Painter Robin McIntyre makes wonderful use projection and wooden boxes of different sizes to pull off the 12 unique locations throughout the musical. It’s one of those shows where that kind of set design feels just right.

White Christmas runs through December 18th at DalekoArts in New Prague MN for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.dalekoarts.com/season-11

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