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|‘White Christmas’ puts you in mood for holiday season|
|Written by Jim Farmer|
|Friday, 29 October 2010 00:00|
During his long stage career, openly gay actor Erick Devine has found himself in quite a few Christmas-themed holiday shows. As luck would have it, he does so again this year, appearing in “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” debuting in Atlanta next week courtesy of Theater of the Stars.
According to Devine, the stage version follows the film pretty closely, with some exceptions. It’s set in 1954 on Christmas Eve, where two World War II Army buddies have a successful song and dance routine. After the two follow a pair of singing sisters to a Vermont lodge – belonging to their former commanding general — they decide to stage a Broadway revue in the hopes their Army pals can come out and help save the lodge. Devine stars as General Waverly, the gruff owner of the lodge.
He calls the gig a high point of his career.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” he says. “The original is a classic, but I think there is more emotional arc than in the movie.”
According to the actor, some new cast members have been added to the stage version, as well as a little more depth.
“I think the character I play is a lot more complicated here than in the movie,” says Devine. “He is a take charge kind of guy but he realizes he needs to relax more.”
This is the first national tour of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” and Devine looks forward to the reaction. It’s a movie that millions of people have seen so they will go into the stage version with their own expectations – and he thinks the show meets those.
The musical contains such songs as “Blues Skies,” “How Deep is the Ocean?” and of course the beloved titular song. It’s not a new show, however. It’s been kicking around a few years, premiering in San Francisco back in 2004. It has played in New York during the holiday season for the last few years. Theater of the Stars has the rights to the tour now and is taking it out around the East Coast until January.
Devine admits that pulling off a successful family show can be difficult, especially one as familiar with this. He says that the trick is making sure there is something besides sentimentality. He thinks that “White Christmas” is that rare show that can be enjoyed by adults as well as kids.
“It is somewhat edgy,” he says. “It is also very funny at time, and I think that takes the edge off the sentimentality.”
Having also appeared in stage versions of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “ Miracle on 34th Street,” the performer realizes that family fare doesn’t have to be a bad thing if it is done well.
Gay and lesbian audiences can appreciate this type of old fashioned musical, says Devine. “We tend to appreciate the classics,” he says. “ I think gay and lesbian audiences appreciate nostalgia. Also, the songs are amazing, as is the dancing, and all the hot men and women on stage doesn’t hurt.”
He has worked with a number of stars in his career. He directed “HMS Pinafore” with Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” with Cathy Rigby. He also worked with Rigby on a national tour of “Annie Get Your Gun.”
This is not the first time Devine has performed in Atlanta. He was here several years ago as part of the touring version of “Big River,” which also played at the Fox Theatre as part of Theater of the Stars.
When this production is over he will start looking for another gig.
“I tell people that in show biz my job is looking for a job,” he laughs.
He does have one production in mind though – he is eyeing a new version of “Cabaret” set for next spring.
Top photo: Openly gay actor Erick Devine stars as gruff General Waverly in the touring version of Irving Berlin’s holiday classic ‘White Christmas.’ (courtesy Theater of the Stars)
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