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Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

One of America’s greatest songwriters scores an unheralded holiday classic

Tacoma Musical Playhouse will present the stage version of the holiday classic White Christmas. Photo credit: 1954 Paramount HE

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The 1954 film White Christmas occupies an odd little corner of the holiday entertainment pantheon. While it's certainly a favorite for some families, it doesn't frequently get mentioned alongside established classics like It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Story, despite starring old Hollywood stars like Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney. Though it was filmed in big, bright Technicolor and VistaVision, it doesn't get as much of the theatrical revival treatment as some of its contemporaries. Even its title song made its debut in an earlier Crosby movie, Holiday Inn.

When it comes down to it, though, White Christmas' lasting legacy is very much rooted in its music, provided by one of the great American songwriters, Irving Berlin. Through his soundtrack, Berlin helped craft a swooning, sentimental post-war ode to returning home and trying to start life anew. It's only fitting, then, that White Christmas would eventually make its way from the big screen to the Broadway stage, but it's a little surprising that it took five decades for that to happen (the stage adaptation, titled Irving Berlin's White Christmas, premiered in St. Louis in 2000 before heading to Broadway eight years later).

Tacoma Musical Playhouse is putting up Irving Berlin's White Christmas, which earlier saw success with the theater in 2010. The story is as follows: Bob Wallace and Phil Davis (Josh Wingerter and Jake Atwood, respectively) serve their time in WWII before returning home to try and make their way as performers. In America, they encounter Betty and Judy (Kaitlyn Terrill-Rose and Tasha Smith, also respectively), two singers who have similarly been working to establish themselves in show biz. TMP has a typically stacked cast to fill out the stage and make for an enveloping experience. With Harry Turpin serving as director and choreographer, Jeff Strvtecky as musical director, Judy Cullen as set designer, and Angela Morgan as stage manager, there's every chance in the world that this production will be stunning.

"We did White Christmas in 2010, and we had lot of fun putting it on, and audiences just loved it," said TMP artistic director Jon Douglas Rake. "We sold out for that run, and there actually were people selling their tickets on Craigslist. Since then, it hadn't really been available, because it'd been on a national tour during the holidays. Finally, this year, the tour stayed pretty much on the east coast, so it opened up for us to do it again. It's just got a good, classic story, and really beautiful music. The movie is a holiday tradition for many people, and so to see it live makes it that much more special. It's a lot of fun, because a lot of his stuff is iconic and fun to dance to -- the orchestrator has created a lot of fun dance arrangements. We hope everybody gets a warm, cozy feeling, even though it's so cold outside! "

This year's production of White Christmas is quickly selling out, so get in soon to experience some robust holiday cheer.

IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS, 7:30 p.m., Friday; 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 24; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, 8, and 15; 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23-Dec. 16, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, $27-$31, 253.565.6867,

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