The place for a feel-good, song- and dance-filled love story to enjoy with the family around the holidays is downtown Benson. The show is “White Christmas,” with music by Irving Berlin.
The show, which is Benson Little Theatre’s first in its 15th season, is a musical love story based on a 1954 film of the same name starring Bing Crosby. It’s the story of Bob Wallace (Hayden Raynor) and Phil Davis (David Sorrell), two Army buddies and entertainers.
They are on a quest to expand their show as they fall in love with women they meet and catch up with their former general and other Army friends along the way.
BLT is the only theater company within 200 miles to perform “White Christmas” this year, according to the group.
“We figured a classic like the movie everybody knows would be a great family outing around the holidays,” said director Justine Blackmon.
Since the main characters are performers, the musical sometimes functions as a show within a show, she said.
In their journey to expand their traveling show, Wallace and Davis meet sisters Betty and Judy Haynes, fellow entertainers. Phil and Judy become smitten, and so do Bob and Betty, though it takes them a bit longer.
Playing Judy and Betty are Allyson Ivey and Taylor Kraft of Fayetteville, friends who also recently played sister roles in “Gypsy.”
Kraft said in real life, she is more like the flirtatious Judy, while Ivey is more like the responsible Betty. But that’s what makes it fun.
“To Betty, the most attractive thing is being honest, decent and caring. It’s hard to find someone who is like her,” Kraft said. “Because (Bob) is just like her, he rubs her the wrong way at first.”
Despite its name, “White Christmas” isn’t actually a story about the holidays – though the end of the play does take place around Christmas. Instead, Blackmon said, it’s a family-friendly love story with plenty of singing and dancing.
Blackmon has directed other shows with BLT, and she said the cast of “White Christmas” is extraordinarily talented. Both Ivey and Kraft perform professionally.
“It’ll be a well-oiled machine,” she said. “It’s hard to find this many men in a small town. We had to do a little digging.”
One of the main themes of the show is “count your blessings,” a phrase that is repeated several times in songs throughout the play, Blackmon said.
During the show, Wallace and Davis manage to rally up their old Army buddies to provide some Christmas cheer to their general (Dennis Jernigan), who has fallen on hard times.
“In the end, he sees what he’s done for them and he sort of melts,” Jernigan said.
This is Jernigan’s first-ever theater performance. He was talked into it by his daughter, Ava Grace, who plays his granddaughter in the show.
“She used her little-girl charm on her dad,” Jernigan said, smiling. “We’re having a lot of fun with it.”