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Sunday, December 16, 2012


White Christmas now at Birch North Park Theatre stars Equity actors (L-R) David Engel, Laura Dickinson, Jeffrey Scott Parsons and Jill Townsend

SEE THE SHOW--In an era when politicians give us song and dance acts, it is extremely satisfying to push the politicos aside and let true song and dance professionals take over the stage and show us what talented musical theater is all about.

Recently Forbes Magazine called San Diego’s historic North Park neighborhood one of America’s hippest places.  Now with live and vibrant live Broadway-style productions being booked into the Birch/North Park theatre, this one down-trodden part of town can also be called well-rounded and entertaining.

Boasting a burgeoning craft beer scene, lively arts district, hall of fame chefs* and one of a kind shops, North Park (bookend with the nearby Old Globe Theatre) is now San Diego’s Theatre district.  Thanks to the arrival of the San Diego Musical Theatre this year, the proven popular troupe, led by Gary and Erin Lewis, has endeared itself to North Parkers and San Diegans alike.

The Lewis’s understand the pulse of San Diego theatre-goers.  Friday night’s lively White Christmas, a heartwarming stage version of Bing Crosby’s 1954 film version, was perfect for the season (show closes Dec. 23).  On the second night of a 10-day run, Director Todd Nielson mixed Equity actors with SDMT’s resident pros.  The audience easily noticed the cast was having fun as well and with White Christmas no bad joke or sentimental song went unrewarded, especially in this military town.

Backed by clever staging and costuming, the cast of this two-and-a-half hour-musical, accompanied by Don Lemaster’s 21-piece orchestra, breezed through 17 Irving Berlin songs wowing a full theatre house and were rewarded with a standing O.  Top billing goes to David Engel as Bob Wallace; Jeffrey Scott Parsons as Phil David; Laura Dickinson as Betty Haynes and Jill Townsend as Judy Haynes.  Scene stealers were Karla Franko as Martha Watson and child actor Casey-Hall-Landers as Susan Waverly.

And, on a day of national mourning because of a crazed killer in Connecticut, these theatre pros provided a needed break from the awful headlines.  The cast of White Christmas via San Diego Musical Theatre lived up to the tradition of professionals, who like Hollywood and the USO did in WWII, entertained us in terrible times.  This generation of pros delivered a much-needed respite and they did it with talent, skill and a genuine kinship toward their audience.

Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives and Paul Blake
Based upon the Paramount Pictures film

Choreographer: Lisa Hopkins

Tickets: At the box office, 29th & University or 858-560-5740.

Next up for San Diego Musical Theatre presentations at the Birch/North Park Theatre:
--Chicago, Feb. 15 thru March 3, 2013.
--The Sound of Music, May 10 thru May 26, 2013
--Ain’t Misbehavin,’ Sept. 27 thru Oct. 13, 2013

Neighborhood notes:
* Recently, two North Park chefs were inducted into San Diego’s 2013 Chef Hall of Fame: Matt Gordon of Urban Solace and Hans Cavin  of Carnitas’ Snack Shack.
--White Christmas orchestra trombonist, Brandon Jagow, has a North Park connection as Musical Director at St. Augustine High School.

--Reviewer Thomas Shess is a Lifestyles writer with San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine and co-founder of North Park News

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