News Column

Fort Smith Little Theatre To Stage 'White Christmas'

November 7, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 07--Fort Smith Little Theatre members will prove life does exist after the tragic sinking of the Titanic.

Numerous FSLT cast members from last year's "Titanic" production will join acting forces with others to stage "White Christmas." The musical will feature music from the 1954 Bing Crosby-Rosemary Clooney film version and more at 8 p.m. Nov. 14-16 and Nov. 19-23 and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the FSLT, 401 N. Sixth St.

"When they made 'White Christmas' into a Broadway musical, they had to extend the music part because the movie didn't have enough music to sustain a Broadway musical," said George A. Mann, the director of the play. "They used music by Irving Berlin, who wrote the original music for 'White Christmas,' too. They took other songs he had written to broaden the scope for the stage version."

Written by David Ives, the musical "White Christmas" follows the tap-happy footsteps of two World War II veterans, who find success as center-stage entertainers. When the two men meet two singing sisters, they decide to pair up on the stage while trying to save a general's Vermont inn.

"For me, the movie had been such a big part of my life and growing-up experience," said Mann. "This was a chance to take an iconic movie and make it a real-life experience for people."

Mann praised the cast and ensemble members, stating the family friendly story will set an ideal mood for fans of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"It's exciting because many people are returning from 'Titanic,' 'The Sound of Music' and 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,'" he said. "The acting level of this group is very, very high."

Cast members include Brandon Bolin, Joseph Reed, Nathan Stockemer, Matt Hutchison, Shannon Stoddard, Eric Wells, Kait Bradley, Hannah Curlin, Valerie Baldwin, Amanda Elkins-Hiatt, Joe Graham, Jennifer Roller, Shanna Davis, Jane Ann Short, Olivia White, Zach Callahan, Zeke Cook and Mary Beth Koprovic.

Members of the show's ensemble include Cook, Callahan, Curlin, Davis, Graham, Koprovic, Reed, Roller, Neal Godwin, Trish McCully, Randy Pace and Ron Watson.

"I was surprised to learn that some of the cast members have jazz and tap dance training," Mann said. "I didn't know that before, so that's been exciting."

Mann also commented favorably about his crew members, who have helped meet the challenges of bringing "White Christmas" to FSLT's stage.

"The Little Theatre stage is a little more challenging than other stages in other venues because it's limited on space," he said. "You have to be creative with space inside the Fort Smith Little Theatre.

"But at the same time, even productions as large as 'White Christmas' seem more intimate to the theater-goer than productions in a huge theater," Mann added. "It's a little bit more enjoyable for everyone because a smaller stage creates a rapport between the audience and performer that isn't there when you're sitting the length of a football field away from the stage."

So far, rehearsals have gone well, with FSLT members perfecting their acting, singing and dancing parts, he said.

"During the process of (preparing) for a musical, we spend so many hours together that friendships are made -- friendships and relationships that really last the rest of people's lives," Mann said. "It is somewhat like a family. Nerves get frayed when you're sort of in the middle, difficult part of staging a musical, but the easy, fun part of the show then happens when the show is running."

Mann predicted that "White Christmas" will entertain viewers of all ages.

"This is a good production that is good for the family, absolutely," he said. "We think 'White Christmas' is a great way to begin the holiday observances."

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(c)2013 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)

Visit Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.) at www.swtimes.com

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