Without a lot of warmth, everyone’s favorite snowy film classic blows into Chicago for the holidays. The stage version offers many of Irving Berlin’s songs from the cherished film (“Snow,” “Sisters,” and the title song), and tells basically the same story, but suffers from a lack of heart. The talented cast are certainly skillful singers and dancers (although the vocal amplification often overpowers), but there’s little chemistry between the characters and you find yourself feeling indifferent, longing for some of Bing Crosby’s low-key charisma. The musical ends up serving merely as a vehicle for the Irving Berlin songbook with an excuse to break into dance, albeit superbly executed.
Shannon M. O’Bryan wins over the audience in the Vera-Ellen role. This petite blonde sings and dances up a snow storm, but also offers honesty, charm and humor as Judy Haynes. Her Act II opening number, “I Love a Piano," stands out as one of the musical’s highlights (though the song is actually from “Easter Parade”). Ruth Williamson is another knockout as Martha Watson. Her no-nonsense, Eve Arden-like portrayal allows her to star in at least two musical numbers, showcasing her considerable musical and comedic talents.
A show stuffed full of this much entertaining music and dance should have been the icing on Chicago’s theatrical cake. But with a script that doesn’t provide much depth of character, it simply flows from song to song. What could have been a hearty holiday feast is just a light Christmas confection.