White Christmas (at the Wang Theatre through December 31) also takes place in a hinterland full of old soldiers, but itís about as Chekhovian as Busby Berkeley. The production at the Wang (which will alternate years between Boston and St. Paul) is as redolent of 42nd Street as it is of the beloved 1954 film on which itís based. And the surefire combination of Irving Berlin (all the songs from the film and a few more) and the terrific tap dancing engineered by Randy Skinner make the show, which is directed by Tony winner Walter Bobbie, a winner. Iíd go so far as to say that the stage version of White Christmas is less wooden if more lacquered than the movie.
There are a lot of small changes in the book by David Ives and Paul Blake, but the basic story is the same. Suave Stephen Bogardus and fleet-of-foot Michael Gruber star as workaholic Bob Wallace and playboy Phil Davis, successful 1950s vaudevilleans who discover the lovely Haynes sisters (statuesque Kerry OíMalley as Betty and pert hoofer Nadine Isenegger as Judy), then accompany them to their holiday gig at an inn in Vermont that turns out to be (a) run by the guysí adored old World War II general and (b) dying the tourist death due to an absence of frozen precipitation. Wallace and Davis decide to bring in their retinue and put on a show in the barn. Romantic misunderstandings and big numbers ensue. But in the end, each song-and-dance man gets a Haynes, snow flutters down, and the audience gets to sing along to the tune Bing Crosby made the bestselling record in history.
White Christmas stays true to its í50s values and fashions while offering some smartly turned ó and tapped ó out spectacle, notably on "The Best Things Happen While Youíre Dancing," which broadens into a ballroom fantasia, and the interpolated "Blue Skies" and "I Love a Piano." All four leads are good singers, with OíMalley and Bogardus making a ravishing mesh of "Love, You Didnít Do Right by Me" and "How Deep Is the Ocean." Iím not sure White Christmas, with all its tender hokum, needed a cute child, but the generalís granddaughter has been recast as a pipsqueak refugee from Annie (Katherine Doherty), and the audience eats her up, along with the rest of this slick but sweet confection with more holiday trimmings than a department-store window.