If you’re dreaming of a White Christmas this year, your dreams are about to be answered. Yes, tonight the bow is untied on what may be Nashville’s biggest gift of all: opening night of the stage production of the ever popular classic film, Iving Berlin’s White Christmas, playing at Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) November 13 through 18.
It is a chance for you to step out of the technologically and pressure driven year of 2012 and into the 1954 era of innocence, simplicity and theatrical savvy, all wrapped up in a sweet love story with a cozy Vermont setting.
It’s a night to enjoy with a friend, a special someone or your entire family; romantic to the hilt and full of holiday cheer, with well-known song favorites like “Sisters”, “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” and the song we all know and love, “White Christmas”.
The joyful production is a walk down memory lane, about two show business pals; Bob Wallace, played by James Chow and Phil Davis, played by David Elder, who are putting on a winter show in a beautiful little inn in Vermont, all while finding the loves of their lives.
The play is directed by Tony award winner Walter Bobbie with Tony nominated choreographer Randy Skinner and music direction by Rob Berman; music and lyrics by Irving Berlin with the book by David Ives and Paul Blake. The stage performance is based on the Paramount Pictures film written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank.
I had the pleasure of asking David Elder a few questions about his role in the musical. Elder is starring as Phil Davis, played in the movie version by the lovable Danny Kaye. Enjoy.
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Linda Brewer: Phil Davis, played by Danny Kaye in the movie version of White Christmas, was my favorite character, as he was for many people. Were you familiar with the role and the actor who played it in the movie before you took the part? What made you audition for that particular part or was it the vision the director saw for you?
David Elder: I was familiar with the role (Phil Davis) and the actor (Danny Kaye), when I accepted the part. Danny Kaye was so wonderful as Phil Davis. I was immediately attracted to this role because he gets to be a true triple threat, as well as utilize his comedic chops and physical humor.
LB: Danny Kaye played the funny, lovable side-kick to Bing Crosby’s straight-man role, do you play the part in a similar way or have you adapted it to suit your own persona?
DE: I do believe that I play the role in a similar way. However, I don’t feel as though my physical look is as “character” as his. Using my take on physical comedy, I fashion my performance a bit more towards the ‘ladies man’ side of Phil’s personality, yet trying very hard, all the while, to get Bob to loosen up, lighten up, and to lead him away from being so cynical.
LB: There are a lot of dance numbers in the movie version of White Christmas, as I’m sure there are in the stage production. Are you a dancer or an actor first or are the two non-exclusive?
DE: Well, I studied voice performance in college, so I feel as though I am a singer, first. However, most all of my 8 Broadway shows and regional leading roles have utilized my dancing skills as well. So combining that with my acting opportunities, I find all of it a bit non-exclusive.
With every show that I am asked to be a part of, I take a good look at what is expected of me and I make sure that I am qualified in all of the appropriate areas. And yes, there are a lot of beautifully choreographed dance numbers in this White Christmas stage adaptation.
LB: What made you want to get into “show business” in the first place? Who were your biggest supporters as you followed your path into the business?
DE: Well, singing came quite easy to me from a very early age and the ability to teach myself how to tumble also showed me that picking up choreography might be a talent. It really became clear, as I decided what to choose for my major in college, that I should give this singing and dancing thing a try. On my senior trip to NYC, I saw Tommy Tune starring in “My One and Only” and was instantly hooked. He sang and spoke in my Native tongue, which is Houstonian, and then danced so well that it was nothing short of inspirational. The whole production was magic to my young senses and I said to myself, “This is what YOU should do for a living”. I’ve had a successful career in the business now for twenty years and I couldn’t be more grateful.
LB: What is the biggest struggle for the troupe, and for yourself, in gearing up for such a big production?
DE: The biggest struggle for most any touring production is living out of a suitcase and all the traveling. In addition to performing a highly physical show 8 times a week, we must travel through many airports, usually on our day off, which most of us find exhausting. We had an extra layer of challenge this year because we were in rehearsals as hurricane Sandy came ashore. We lost 2 of our very precious 9 days to put it all together.
LB: Have you played our beautiful Tennessee Performing Arts Center before? Or in Nashville in general?
DE: No, I have never played the TPAC center as best I can recall, however, I spent 3 of the greatest years of my life performing at Opryland USA in the late 80’s. Its always a thrill for me to pass through Nashville because so many of my good friends still live there and it brings back so many wonderful memories.
LB: In closing, what would you like to say to your Nashville audience? What do you have coming up after White Christmas? What are your plans for the holidays?
DE: Irving Berlin’s White Christmas offers everything you want in a holiday musical or any musical for that matter. The singing, dancing, cast of characters, costumes and of course, the all important ‘snowing on the audience bit’ make for a truly memorable evening that I am sure the Nashville audiences in particular, won’t soon forget.
I will be spending Christmas this year in Washington DC because our show plays the Kennedy Center from Dec 11- Jan 6th. Its always been my favorite holiday and my family will be visiting me from out of town at various intervals.
If you would like to be a part of TPAC’a White Christmas, visit tpac.org for days, times and other ticket information. And don’t forget your gloves!