There's something about the nagging pressure to be happy at holiday time that leads people to rebel with cynicism. And there's no easier target to lash out at than tried-and-true old-fashioned entertainment. Yet, once in a while, material that could easily become insufferable in the wrong hands is presented with such consummate skill and irresistible high spirits that even the most-curmudgeonly Ebeneezers among us can't help but holler uncle. This ebullient adaptation of a cherished 1954 Bing Crosby-Danny Kaye film musical is among the classiest tour productions I've ever seen. It overflows with warmhearted humor, visual delights, likeable characters, and sparkling musical performances that capture the glee of the season without giving us a sugar overdose.
Veteran Broadway director Walter Bobbie knows his way around frothy tuners, and he ensures that this production maximizes its uncomplicated pleasures. The farcical romantic complications, funny second-banana characters, and gloriously listenable Irving Berlin music and lyrics work like clockwork in David Ives and Paul Blake's clever adaptation of the original screenplay. It's about two Army-buddy World War II vets (Brian d'Arcy James and Jeffry Denman) who, along with the singing sisters who have captured their respective fancies (Anastasia Barzee and Meredith Patterson), put on a show at a Vermont Inn to rescue it from bankruptcy and save the neck of their ex-general (David Ogden Stiers), who owns it. These triple-threat lead players are delightful, delicious, and de-lovely. Yeoman support comes from the incomparable Ruth Williamson as a sardonic inn manager who yearns to get back in the spotlight and the hilarious and adorable Danielle Milano as the general's spunky granddaughter-a perfect Annie Warbucks if anyone is on the lookout for one.
The endlessly enjoyable score, infused with Berlin standards ("Blue Skies," "How Deep Is the Ocean," and the legendary title song), sounds terrific thanks to music director Steven Freeman and a splendid orchestra, and Randy Skinner's delicious choreography snaps, crackles, and pops-at its best in the dazzling "I Love a Piano" sequence. Anna Louizos' ravishing sets and Carrie Robbins' sumptuous costumes create a cotton-candy world of Technicolor delights. It's nice to discover that productions mounted specifically to tour needn't offer any apologies. Yes, Virginia, there is musical comedy splendor beyond Broadway.
Presented by Broadway L.A., The Producing Office, Paul Blake, Dan Markley, Sonny Everett, and Nederlander Presentations Inc. in association with Paramount Pictures at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A. Mon. 7 p.m. (Nov. 28 only.) Tue.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 & 8 p.m., Sun. 1 & 6:30 p.m. (Also 2 p.m. Nov. 23 & 25, Dec. 22, 23, 28, & 29. Dark 2 p.m. Dec. 25 & 8 p.m. Nov. 24, 27, & 29, Dec. 24 & 31, & Jan. 1, 2006.) Nov. 28-Jan. 1, 2006. (213) 365-3500 or (714) 740-7878.