The Mississippi River, the unofficial border between the Twin Cities, may not be that deep or treacherous after all.
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” which has been presented at St. Paul’s Ordway Center in its last two stops here, has safely made the leap to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.
The national tour that came to town Tuesday is just as exquisite and heart-warming as previous tours — a giant Christmas card come to life.
Expertly directed and choreographed by Randy Skinner, “White Christmas” has some gratifying dance numbers, including the elegant “Blue Skies,” which closes the first act, and the show-stopping, bring-down-the-house “I Love a Piano,” which opens the second.
Irving Berlin’s music, superbly conducted by Michael Horsley, is gorgeously rendered by a cast that finds the romance and warmth in every syllable.
The story, drawn from the 1954 Paramount film, orbits Bob Wallace (James Clow) and Phil Davis (Jeremy Benton), two army entertainers who have become big stars ten years after fighting in the trenches of Europe. Bob has a hard time finding love. Phil is girl crazy. Chasing a matching female act known as the Haynes sisters, Phil books he and Bob on a train bound not for Florida — as Bob had thought — but for Vermont.
There, they are unexpectedly re-united with their Daddy Warbucks-like commanding officer, Gen. Henry Waverly (Conrad John Schuck) who runs an inn that’s in danger of foreclosure. In between romantic hiccups caused by misunderstandings, Bob, Phil and the Haynes sisters — Betty (Trista Moldovan) and Judy (Kaitlyn Davidson) — all put on a show.
Save for one moment when actor Clow got stumped on Tuesday (he was cued generously by Moldovan), the production is flawless. Clow, in fact, sings with such heart and smoothness that it seems effortless. His dancing in “Blue Skies” is similarly graceful.
Benton, for his part, is equally impressive, although his dancing wins the edge over his singing. He and Davidson are spectacular in the “I Love a Piano” tap number.
Moldovan, who starred as Christine on Broadway in “Phantom of the Opera,” is affectingly winning as Betty. She finds her character’s insecurities and emotional turbulence, which are in contrast to the playful confidence of her sister, played breezily by Davidson.
I must admit, I was leery going into Tuesday’s show. I had watched live images the night before of Ferguson, Mo., convulsing in fire. What could a show named “White Christmas” have to offer aside from cheerful escapism?
The production is not a balm, by any stretch, but it’s a reminder that an excellent show, centered on giving and sharing, can remind us about the meaning of the season at a time of national unease.