Breaking ground with White Christmas

Amanda Weston

     While most students were swimming, tanning and enjoying the last month of summer, the cast and crew of the 2009 Cedar Park High School musical were hard at work learning dance routines and practicing Christmas music.

     This year’s musical, White Christmas, features music by Irving Berlin, whom many consider to be a preeminent musical theatre composer. Along with the music for White Christmas, which includes show-stopping dance numbers such as Blue Skies and soft ballads such as Count Your Blessings, he has also composed for Annie Get Your Gun and There’s No Business Like Show Business. The show takes place in the 1940’s and 50’s and tells the story of war veterans and Broadway producers Bob Wallace and Phil Davis who meet performing sisters Betty and Judy Haynes. After traveling with the girls to Pine Tree, Vermont for the holidays, Wallace and Davis are reunited with their old commanding General Waverly who now owns a ski lodge with the help of Martha Watson and his granddaughter Susan.

      As there is no snow, business is poor, and Wallace and Davis plan to help the general by bringing their latest Broadway show to the inn. There is also a love story between Bob and Betty, but a misunderstanding threatens the relationship and the success of the show. Wallace is played by  Zachary Soza, senior, Davis by Cody Alarcon, junior, Betty Haynes by Natalie Herzig, senior, Judy Haynes by Mollie Craven, senior, and Madison Piner, junior, General Waverly by Jordan Fogle, junior, Watson by Ada Zhang and Courtney Anthony, juniors, and Susan by Britney Wilkinson, freshman, and Lara Laake-Emery, sophomore.

     Many members of the cast watched the 1954 film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen in preparation for the show. Although very different from the show, the film allowed cast members to learn songs, get an idea of dance routines, and further understand the characters and story. The Broadway show played a limited engagement at the Marquis Theatre in New York from November 2008 to January 2009 and is set to return this November and travel on a national tour as well.

     “Before auditions, I rented the movie White Christmas and instantly fell in love with the beautiful songs, amazing dancing and wonderful characters,” Mollie Craven, senior said. “I knew I had to be a part of something that was and still is a beloved classic,” Craven said. Craven plays Judy Haynes, the whimsical younger sister of Betty who schemes with Phil to bring Bob and Betty together.

     The cast of White Christmas rehearsed several days a week under the leadership of theatre director Mrs.. Jerry Blake and tech director Mr. Denton Davies. During most of the rehearsals, choreographer Stacey Huston and musical director Cyrus Albertson attended to help out and help perfect the show. These individuals played a crucial role to the show’s success. Huston organized several dance clinics last summer to get a head start on routines and Albertson has provided the cast with MP3 versions of the songs with only their voice parts. Cedar Park High School is one of the first amateur theatres to perform the show in the nation.

     “I’ve been waiting ever since I came to Cedar Park to do the show. It became available one Friday at 6 AM and by seven I had turned in the contract. It’s a beautiful show with audience appeal. It’s a memorable and special show for our community, and it’s Irving Berlin, need I say more?” Blake said.

     Along with being one of the first high schools to perform the Broadway show in the country, White Christmas also stood out due to its various types of dance. Choreographer Stacey Huston, who did her ninth show at CPHS this year, has choreographed jazz, tap and ballroom numbers for the show.

     “I love this ‘old-school’ choreography style. It’s a very versatile show and we really [got] to branch out,” Huston said. “It’s neat to have fresh faces and material.”

     The cast and crew rehearsed three to four days a week after school, balancing learning music, lines and dances with school work.

     “It’s a challenge. Between an AP and Pre-AP class, several other difficult courses and Celebrities, I’m always very busy. But it’s totally worth it. I live for musical every year. This is my twelfth school musical,” Chelsea Hollenbeck, junior, said. Hollenbeck is a featured dancer in the show.

     For senior cast members, this was their final major musical at Cedar Park. Although they say it’s sad to leave, at the same time they were excited about the production.

     “It’s the best last show I could be in,” Margaret Olson, senior, said. Olson is a dance captain and featured dancer.

     White Christmas opened Thursday, December 3 at the CPHS Performing Arts Center and closed Sunday, December 6. Not only did students and Cedar Park citizens attend, but many in the audience traveled from out of town or state to see the show as well.

     “I loved it. It was full of great music, dancing, and acting,” Lindsay Salomans, junior, said. “I feel ready for the holidays [and] I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”