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TMTO to stage 'White Christmas'

Local teens will bring the holiday classic "White Christmas" to the stage at the Craterian Theater in the Collier Center for the Performing Arts in Medford beginning Friday, Dec. 11.

Parthy McCandless is directing the professional-caliber youths from Teen Musical Theater of Oregon.

The production is based on a Broadway version of the film classic starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Crosby and Kaye played successful singers and dancers who follow two singing sisters to a ski lodge in Vermont, only to find a major general who led them during World War II has fallen on hard times because of a lack of snow at his lodge.

McCandless says the teens had varying familiarity with the movie.

"Some have seen it, and it's a part of their family Christmas traditions. A surprising number have not seen it," she says, noting she asked those who hadn't seen the movie to watch it in order to familiarize themselves with the style of the film and its portrayal of the 1950s.

Audiences can see for themselves the differences between the movie and theater versions of the musical at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 11-12, 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Dec. 17-18, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. Tickets are $22 for adults and $12 for ages 18 and younger.

Tickets are available at the Collier Center box office at 16 S. Bartlett St. in downtown Medford, online at craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000.

McCandless says there are script variations between the film and theater versions, and more musical numbers have been added to the theater version. In the movie, the retired major general tries to rejoin the Army, but is rejected.

In the theater version, the major general has the option to go back, but must decide whether to return to military service or figure out whether he can find meaning and purpose in civilian life.

Alex Bellen plays Major General Tom Waverly for TMTO.

Braden Day has the role of crooner and producer Bob Wallace, famously played by Crosby in the movie. Evan Sheets portrays singer, dancer and producer Phil Davis, played by Kaye on screen.

As for the singing sisters who were played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen in the movie, Hannah Schneider and Tiasie Mackenzie will take on those roles.

"I've had a great time working on this," McCandless says. "I love working with this age group. This show has so much heart in it. People of this age have so much heart and are willing to share that heart. That makes for a special performance."

Every generation finds new relevance in "White Christmas," and that is no different today, as veterans return to civilian life after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The aspect of the general's story is relevant to contemporary society in the way we receive returning veterans, and the way they feel about themselves, McCandless says.

Local audiences might also find new meaning in the general's tribulations as he tries to operate a ski lodge with no snow on the slopes. The Mt. Ashland Ski Area has been hard-hit by two years in a row of low snow in the mountains. Ski and snowboard enthusiasts are hoping for a turnaround this year as storms sweep through the area.

The musical ultimately is a heartwarming tale about people caring for each other, McCandless says.

"It's a story about people who love and care about each other who come together to make things right — whether it's a couple who have a misunderstanding and eventually reconcile, or performers coming together to stage a show for a general," she says.

In the musical, Wallace and singing sister Betty Haynes have chemistry from the beginning, but their initial meeting ends in a prickly stand-off. Later, as their romance begins to blossom, a misunderstanding has Betty Haynes believing Wallace will sacrifice the general's pride and dignity for his own financial gain.

Whether the truth will emerge and they can work together to help the general — and each other — remains a matter of suspense through most of the musical.

"The whole show is about helping each other," McCandless says.

Left to right: Tiasie MacKenzie, Evan Sheets, Braden Day and Hannah Schneider appear in Teen Musical Theatre's production of 'White Christmas,' opening Friday, Dec. 11, at the Craterian Theater. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta