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Irving Berlin's White Christmas at Fort Edmonton Park

Nuova Vocal Arts mounts this jazzy holiday show at Capitol Theatre

The holiday theatre scene is well underway and Nuova Vocal Arts is taking a traditional favourite and recreating a frothy Christmas treat for every member of the family. 

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas builds on the 1954 iconic movie that set a record and at the time was Hollywood’s all-time highest grossing musical film. Despite the film’s massive popularity, the stage adaptation only hit Broadway in 2008. 

Nuova Vocal Arts, formerly known as Opera Nuova, recognizes how audiences still crave Berlin’s clever lyrics and catchy tunes. It is mounting White Christmas at Capitol Theatre in Fort Edmonton Park on Dec. 23 and Dec 27 to 30. 

“I grew up with White Christmas. It was my dad’s favourite and we loved the show. We loved the music, and we loved the message which is pay-it-forward. When people have done great things, and they get in trouble you help them. It’s a message we need to hear,” said artistic director Kim Mattice Wanat. 

Following a parallel plot to the film, veteran soldier Bob Wallace (Tayte Mitchell) and Phil Davis (Jackson Card) created a successful song-and-dance act after the Second World War. They have a train ticket to Florida for rest and relaxation. Instead, the men follow their hearts and a duo of beautiful singing sisters, Betty (Melenie Reid) and Judy (Karlee Squires) to snowy Vermont. 

Betty and Judy are engaged to perform at a lodge coincidentally owned by Bob and Phil’s former army general. Unfortunately, this year there is no snow. Skiers who normally book a room are absent and the general’s financial fortunes are shaky. 

Berlin created a dazzling score featuring famous standards including Blue Skies, I Love a Piano, Let Yourself Hope, Love - You Didn’t Do Right by Me, Happy Holidays, and of course the heart-warming White Christmas

“This is a Christmas show, but there’s very little Christmas music in it. All the music is Irving Berlin’s jazz standards. You can come to the show and enjoy all the best jazz repertoire. The music is fabulous, and the message is what we need – lots of joy in the world. We need artists making us laugh, making us cry and inspiring us. It’s a Hallmark love story,” Mattice Wanat said. 

Three St. Albert actor-singers are in the production. Lucy Haines takes on a gender-bending role as Ezekiel Foster, the super laid-back handywoman. 

“Eziekiel is older and looks after the animals. Nothing ruffles her feathers. She gets on with her work and she works at a turtle’s pace. Lucy is absolutely hilarious. It’s a comedic role and she’s so funny. She has the ability to take on the core essence of her character and bring it home for the audience.” 

Sophie May Healey, a graduate of the University of Alberta’s BFA program, plays Rhoda, an attractive showgirl who has her sights on catching a particular man. 

“I’ve known Sophie from training at the University of Alberta. Every rehearsal she creates another layer of the sexy, funny showgirl who is latching on to Phil.” 

And the third St. Albertan is Jessika Clarke, who understudies the role of Martha Watson, General Waverly scrappy housekeeper. As part of the ensemble, Clarke also plays a series of bit parts that create this eccentric, homespun, romantic world. 

Nuova Vocal Arts celebrates its 25th anniversary next year and White Christmas is its 95th show. 

“It’s been such a remarkable and inspiring journey. It feels so fulfilling. Now is the time to watch so many artists that have built significant careers – some in North America, some in Europe and some that are international. It’s enormously rewarding to know what we do makes an impact,“ Mattice Wanat said. 

In keeping with the show's pay-it-forward theme, the company is accepting donations for Coats for Kids & Families. Accepted items include men, women and children’s winter coats; toques, mitts and scarves of all sizes; snow pants, winter boots, insulated work wear and work boots. 

Tickets for shows range from $35 to $45 at  

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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