Behind the scenes, showbiz Jews bring new version
of White Christmas to the stage.
Special to the Jewish News
he irony of the new White Christmas musical production
opening next week at Detroit's Fox Theatre is that there wouldn't
be such a show without some extraordinary Jewish talent.
The famous composer who wrote the music and lyrics, Irving Berlin,
was Jewish; the two producers of the holiday extravaganza, Kevin
McCollum and Jeffrey Seller, are Jewish; the musical director, Rob
Berman, is Jewish.
Even Danny Kaye (Kaminsky), the son of a Russian-born immigrant
tailor and one of the stars of the original 1954 White Christmas
movie, upon which this stage adaptation is based, was Jewish.
White Christmas will run for 54 performances Nov. 17-Dec. 30 at
the Fox, replacing New York's Radio City Rockettes, who have high,-
kicked their way out of town after seven years.
Ironically, it was a Russian-Jewish immigrant (born Israel Baline),
with a rabbi-shoichet (ritual slaughterer) father, who wrote "White
Christmas': one of America's most recorded songs. Berlin, who was
a singing waiter in New York's Chinatown as a teenager, wrote 1,200
tunes, including "God Bless America" and "There's No Business Like
Show Business:' plus a dozen Broadway musicals. A Congressional Gold
Medal recipient, he died at 101 in 1989.
The song "White Christmas" was introduced in a 1942 movie called
Holiday Inn, with Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds singing a duet
to earn the tune an Academy Award. In view of the song's popularity
— Crosby's recording alone has sold more than 100 million copies
worldwide --- it was inevitable "White Christmas" would morph into
the title of a Paramount musical. In addition to Kaye, it starred Bing
Crosby (again), Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Elleii, and became the
top moneymaking film of '54. The film's Jewish director was Michael
Curtiz, who a dozen years earlier had_ directed Casablanca.
The script for the stage show has been slightly rewritten (by David
Ives), and there are more dance numbers than in the movie. Additional
Berlin songs also have been added to the version that will play at the
Fox, plus a theater in St. Paul, Minn., with an entirely different cast
— the only two U.S. cities to get White Christmas this year.
"It's typical Irving Berlin holiday music — melodic songs of
cheer and happiness, not anger:' said McCollum. "I'm proud he was
a patriotic American composer with a strong Jewish work ethic:' In
the stage adaptation, Berlin's music will be enhanced by a 24-piece
orchestra and 53 performers; confetti and a foam snow machine
create winter on stage.
The director is Walter Bobbie (Chicago), and the choreographer
is Randy Skinner (42nd Street). Musical director Berman's recent
Broadway credits are Pajama Game and Wonderful Town.
Top to bottom:
Shannon O'Bryan and
Mark Ledbetter in Irving
'Berlin's White Christmas
at Detroit's Fox Theatre
Producer Jeffrey Seller
promises White Christmas
is a musical for all — "It
doesn't make any dif-
ference if you celebrate
Chanukah or Christmas."
Producer Kevin McCollum:
"One reason I got involved
developing this family-
friendly show is that I
have a 5-year-old and a
Jewish Tam on page 46
November 9 2006