A perfectly merry 'White Christmas' at the Kennedy Center

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Entertainment,Theater

You may not hear sleigh bells in the snow, but when the music is as timeless and potent as the shiny numbers in "Irving Berlin's White Christmas," you'll be looking to polish up your tap shoes and cane before you hunt for any treetops that glisten.

All of the old standards are here, from the jazzy sway of "Blue Skies" to the bouncy ragtime chords of "I Love a Piano" and, of course, the universally beloved titular tune. The difference here is that they're all delivered live and fresh and novel, as though Berlin just cranked out this collection of crowdpleasers last week.

Fans of the classic 1954 film featuring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as two affable World War II soldiers-turned-song-and-dance-men who find love as they attempt to fill their former Army commander's vacant Vermont inn by holding a variety show won't be disappointed. The glittery adaptation currently lodged in the Kennedy Center's Opera House by Atlanta's Theater of the Stars sticks to the original Paramount flick like chunky snowflakes falling on frozen earth.

Onstage
'Irving Berlin's White Christmas'
Where: Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW
When: Through Jan. 6
Info: $25 to $150; 202-467-4600, kennedy-center.org

In a fizzy explosion of bubbly tap numbers and giddy showstoppers, lush ball gowns and all the old-fashioned yuletide charm your heart can handle, Norb Joerder directs a sturdy production that only occasionally veers into generic romance territory by David Ives and Paul Blake's dated dialogue. Whether in the interest of time or presuming familiarity with the story, their bland book erringly omits critical character exposition or insight into the two couples at the center of their holiday romp.

Aside from such inexplicably hollow characterizations, the evening is an otherwise cheerful bash brought to life by Randy Skinner's fantastic choreography, particularly in his exhilarating second-act opener and the swoon-worthy steps to "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing."

And indeed they do. Decked out in brilliant suits and Hollywood-inspired glam by Carrie Robbins, our Phil and Judy and Bob and Betty are a swank pair of sweethearts living it up from Miami to New York and beyond. James Clow and David Elder are the eligible bachelors wooing Stefanie Morse and Mara Davi's cooing Haynes sisters. And while Clow and Morse are generally reliable but stiff in their leading roles, they fail to generate as many sparks as the debonair duo of Elder and Davi, who effortlessly glide across the boards in a romantic haze. The foursome is only briefly upstaged by the generous talents of Ruth Williamson, a joy to hear onstage again as the nosy concierge who wants another chance in the footlights.

So "count your blessings" -- the Christmas spirit is alive and well in Pine Tree, Vt., and "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" still dazzles with magic for dreamy winter days. Merry and bright, indeed.

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