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White Christmas at the FAC headlines a trio of winning Christmas plays 

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click to enlarge White Christmas is sharing a Christmas message to packed houses at the FAC. - COURTESY FINE ARTS CENTER
  • Courtesy Fine Arts Center
  • White Christmas is sharing a Christmas message to packed houses at the FAC.

In the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, many of us take time to give back, to help those less fortunate and to gather with our families. We remember the good times even as we create new memories for children and grandchildren.

As they say, "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

It is in this spirit of memorable moments that the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center brings us Irving Berlin's White Christmas, now showing through Jan. 3, 2016. A better choice for a holiday treat is hard to imagine. With roots in the 1954 film that has burrowed into our collective Christmas consciousness, both the song "White Christmas" and the story evoke all that is best about the season.

The storyline follows soldiers Bob Wallace (Matt Gibson) and Phil Davis (Zachary Guzman), who become a successful song-and-dance team after World War II. Along the way, Bob and Phil plan and produce a fundraising musical by reuniting their 151st Army Division buddies. The twists and turns involve romance, intrigue and a lot of Berlin's tunes.

Gibson and Guzman are first-rate, triple-threat talents, as are Mackenzie Sherburne and Alannah Vaughn, who play their romantic interests, sisters Betty and Judy Haynes. The quartet combines terrific voices with some intense choreography and the romantic/dramatic chemistry to make the story work. Gibson in particular shines in his solo, "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," but when Sherburne joins in, delicious harmony ensues. Their connection is obvious; the pair becomes a couple at that moment.

You may be familiar with Jen Lennon, the KKTV personality, but wait until you see her as Martha Watson, Broadway has-been and still-wannabe. When Lennon belts out "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy," you will immediately forget her TV gig. She's a singer. She's an actor. Her day job doesn't begin to display her best talents.

The "Oxydol" ladies (Rebecca Myers and Sierra Reynolds) float in and out of the story, always accompanied by their falsetto giggling. Their characters are floozies, interested in seeing what's up with Phil and anyone else who will listen. Myers and Reynolds clearly enjoy their roles; their enthusiasm is contagious.

Ellie Levy is only a fifth-grader, but she got the biggest ovation from the crowd during my visit, with a few standing to recognize her for "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy." She nailed her performance with a stage presence far beyond her years.

The production numbers here are outstanding, especially the opening number in the second act ("I Love a Piano"). Spontaneous applause erupted during the dazzling display of tap-dancing talent. Mary Ripper Baker's choreography is flashy, ambitious and at times a challenge for the ensemble. Christopher Sheley's set design is functional and beautiful, covering a variety of locations from New York City to Vermont to the Western Front in World War II.

Director Nathan Halvorson's vision essentially puts the audience into a huge snow globe, full of marvelous music done by consummate professionals in a magical environment. The song "Blue Skies" captures the nostalgic mood best.

Blue skies smilin' at me

Nothin' but blue skies do I see

... Blue days, all of them gone

Nothin' but blue skies from now on

It's a message of hope and faith that our best days are still ahead of us. That is indeed a Christmas message for the ages, but one that means a lot today — making it all the more gratifying that White Christmas is playing to packed houses.

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