WPAC dreaming of ‘White Christmas’
The Wilson Performing Arts Center is getting into the Christmas spirit with a local production of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” Dec. 8-10 and Dec. 15-17.
The show is being directed by Belinda DeBolt, a first-time director with the Wilson Performing Arts Center, but who has been involved in directing and participating in musicals for quite some time.
“My first musical was over in Villisca at the Rialto Theater. We did summer theater over there for many years, and that’s how I started. I did shows with Chris and Barb Nelson from Stanton and others. The first musical I did was “Fiddler on the Roof,” and then “The Sound of Music,” and they kept on going. Every summer that was what I did, so it’s a lot of fun, and I really enjoy it,” Debolt said. “In fact, my oldest daughter, Bailey Debolt, got to experience the Rialto in one of the last shows that they did, which was “The Music Man.” She was Amaryillis and I was Mrs. Paroo, so we got to do that together. She’s directing at the Spencer Community Theater.”
DeBolt said she’s thrilled to be able to direct a show in a theater space like the Wilson.
“It’s been very cool for me because of all the bells and whistles. This theater has all sorts of stuff. I’ve never been able to work with a fly system before, and I’ve never had this many options for lights. Everything I’ve done in the past was more basic, so when I got here, I was like, ‘Tell me what I can do.’ Because it’s pretty impressive,” DeBolt stated.
DeBolt said “White Christmas” is a show that DeBolt has always been a fan of and that she wanted to do.
“I’ve always loved “White Christmas. I’ve watched the movie since back in the days when we only had four T.V. stations. Val Zane, the executive director here at the Wilson, approached me last summer and asked if I’d be interested in directing White Christmas. It had been on their slate for about two years, but they had not settled on a director yet. I loved the show, so I told her yes, and said we should try to do this. It’s been a really good experience,” explained DeBolt.
The show itself was adapted from the 1954 film, which originally starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen.
“The show was adapted for Broadway as “Irving Berlin’’s White Christmas: The Musical in 2008. The original film had 17 songs, but they added more Irving Berlin songs to the musical, such as “Blue Skies,” “I Love a Piano,” and “How Deep is the Ocean.” Also, the stage musical has a few changes overall from the 1954 film,” advised DeBolt.
For those unfamiliar with the film and musical, DeBolt said the show begins with GIs Bob Wallace and Phil Davis.
“Bob and Phil are war buddies who use their talents to do a Christmas show for wartime troops in 1944. Their talent and friendship grows into a song and dance show after the war. They meet sisters Betty and Judy Haynes, and follow the sisters to their Christmas show at the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont. They then find the inn is owned by their former Army commander, and let’s just say, the show ‘snowballs’ from there. Hold onto your toboggans and enjoy the show because it’s going to be a lot of fun. You’ll laugh, and you may even cry,” DeBolt commented.
Doing this show, DeBolt said, is special, because it’s once again allowing her to work with her youngest daughter, Blair.
“We’ve been in quite a few shows together, and now we’re doing this one at the Wilson, so it’s kind of fun,” DeBolt said.
In addition to Blair, the show features Don Torbett, Tommy Hanna, Ciara Schierkolk, Ron Hines, Audrey Cosgrove, Macartnie Boeye, Mace Hensen, Tracy Rhodes, Mickaela Saner, Eric Rhodes, Andrew Soden, Rebecca Bird, Becca Baker, John Hewett, Marj Schierkolk, Kay Soden, Tony Filpi, Norah Cosgrove, and Jeremy Waymire. DeBolt said the cast for the show is made up of amazing performers.
“We have people from all over the place. We’ve got people from Bellevue and Omaha Neb., Hastings, Thurman, Atlantic, Shenandoah, Red Oak, and our choreographers and cast members Tracy and Eric Rhodes are from Clarinda. Our music director, and also a member of the cast, is John Hewett, and he’s a great music director, patient with all the notes, and does a great job working with people. We’ve got a cast of amazing people that we’re kind of hiding. A couple of them haven’t done anything with community theater for more than a decade, and they’re explosive on stage and so fun to watch,” advised DeBolt.
DeBolt offered additional praise to the cast, as they had to put in a bit of extra effort to get the roles filled.
“We were short some people. But I think a variety of community theaters are experiencing that. Around this time of year, people are busy, and some, especially guys, need some coaxing to get on stage. It helps when they have a family member in the cast, because then they’ll volunteer and get in here and have a lot of fun. Another issue we ran into was that there are a lot of shows happening at the same time. We had a little difficulty getting male cast members because the shows around the area were a little bit crammed together. Tommy Hanna and Mace Hensen came into this show right after completing a show with the Southwest Iowa Theatre Group in Shenandoah.”
DeBolt said there’s been the added benefit of being able to direct the show with a good mix of new talent and seasoned performers.
“Don Torbett and Tommy Hanna are the show’s Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, and they recently acted opposite each other in “Jekyll and Hyde.” They know how to react to each other. They know what the other one does. And with Blair and Ciara Schierkolk as the Haynes sisters, it means that all four of them have worked together in prior shows,” stated DeBolt. “We’ve also got a number of performers who haven’t done a lot, but they’re wonderful as well. It helps that we have some seasoned cast members that can show them the ropes. They’re all very comfortable with each other, and that’s huge.”
DeBolt says there are a number of things she’s enjoying about being able to direct at the Wilson for the first time.
“I love the stage and the management and the help. The talent of all the people, beyond the cast, has been amazing. Andrew Heaton, who built the set, has been amazing. We met months before auditions and I showed him my ideas and he put things together for me without a hitch,” DeBolt said.
Also, DeBolt said it’s been a little extra special for her to be able to do a Christmas-themed show around the holiday.
“It’s been amazing. While it is a little harder, because people are busier around this time of year, it’s been worth coming to.”
Additionally, DeBolt said the show times will have a bit of variety for people to see the show.
“We have the regular 2:30 p.m. show times on Dec. 10 and 17, and 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 and Dec. 15. Also, the Dec. 9 showing will be at 7:30, but on Saturday, Dec. 16, we’re doing a special matinee at 1 p.m. and we won’t be doing an evening show. I’m interested to see how many people will come to that. A lot of people don’t like driving in the dark in the winter, so we’re giving them an additional afternoon opportunity to come and see it,” DeBolt advised.
She added what she’s hoping people will most enjoy and take with them after seeing the show.
“It’s about miracles and coming together to honor someone who’s meant a lot to people: General Waverly. It’s about family and friends as well. Sometimes, you get to pick your families and pick the people you’re the closest too during the holidays. And finally, it’s a romantic comedy. It’s the old days, not quite in the vein of “A Christmas Story,” but to the old movie classics. We’ve had a lot of fun with it, and there are going to be lots of little surprises and gems that people are going to get to see. It’s a tough time right now, so this will allow audiences to forget all about that and enjoy the people around them.”
DeBolt also said she’d be happy to return to the Wilson Performing Arts Center and direct another show in the future.
“I enjoy directing, and when you have a cast and crew like this, they make it very easy,” DeBolt said.
The show is being sponsored by Houghton State Bank. Tickets are $30 for adults, and $20 for kids, and can be reserved by calling 623-3183, or visiting wilsonartscenter.org.