Fresh As Newly Fallen Snow

Musical brings nostalgia, played with real camaraderie

Posted: November 5, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Courtesy Photo Though "White Christmas" is a fun, extravagant musical, says actor Sean Montgomery, it has a lot of layers and a lot of heart with the band of brothers from the war coming together to support one of their own, a great love story, and particularly, the inspiring development of his own character, Bob Wallace. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

Just like the ones I used to know

FAQ

‘White Christmas’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Nov. 7-8, 1:30 & 8 p.m. Nov. 9, 8 p.m. Nov. 10, 2 & 8 p.m. Nov. 11, 2 p.m. Nov. 12

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $36-$75

INFO — 443-5600 or waltonartscenter.org

Where the treetops glisten and children listen

To hear sleigh bells in the snow...

It's one of the most iconic Christmas songs -- and films -- of all time. In "White Christmas," the jaded Bob Wallace -- played by Bing Crosby -- has established a successful career as a musical entertainer after World War II. Then he and his partner find themselves -- along with a sister act of fellow song-and-dance performers -- at a failing inn in what's supposed-to-be snowy Vermont. There's music, there's dance sequences, there's mischievous matchmaking, there's a love story and there's friendship as the timeless story unfolds in a lavish musical version on stage.

"It's the story you remember, but more," shares lead actor Sean Montgomery, who returns to the role of Wallace for the fourth time -- each time the character growing and evolving as Montgomery himself does. "You're not going to get exactly the movie when you see this; you're getting a Broadway-calibre stage production. It's been amped up even more, the characters have been more fleshed out, the numbers are bigger, songs have been added and [there are] some slight script changes."

And though the entertainment value combined with the "heightened tongue-in-cheek" atmosphere of the 1940s could come off as over the top, Montgomery assures the show can't be simply boiled down to a kitschy Christmas pageant or farcical story.

"You can exist in a reality, while still being heightened, that's believable," he says. "I don't think any of us in the show want to play the characters as bigger-than-life. You don't want it to be cheesy because though it's wholesome and it's sweet, it's still real and truthful. So that's been something that has affected the way I play this role -- I want [Wallace] to be relatable. I want him to be a real person, that you can see yourself in his shoes, instead of just the one-dimensional song-and-dance guy."

Part of that credibility also comes from cast members who are actually friends in real life. Montgomery in the role of Wallace, Jeremy Benton as his buddy Phil Davis, and Kerry Conte and Kelly Sheehan as sisters Betty and Judy Haynes (respectively) are all stepping into their third year on tour together. On top of that, Montgomery shares, he's known Benton for more than a decade (plus he's the only Phil he's worked opposite), went to college and toured during "Mary Poppins" with Conte, and Sheehan is the only Judy with whom he's shared the stage. That's a lot of time for true chemistry to develop.

"We just have such a rapport, such a connection, that I never ever get tired of this show," Montgomery enthuses. "I could do this show every day for the rest of my life; it's the perfect amount of everything. I guess the thing that surprised me [at the beginning] was I knew I was going to like it, but I love it. And in the way the movie is a tradition for some people, this experience has become a holiday tradition for me. I don't know what my year would feel like without having 'White Christmas' to do."

May your days be merry and bright

And may all your Christmases be white.

NAN What's Up on 11/05/2017