November 12, 2014 at 1:33 p.m.
In case a fresh foot of snow this week failed to instill the holiday spirit in you, theater students at Chisago Lakes High School are hoping to spread the season’s joy next week with a production of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”
Parents, grandparents and other adults in attendance will instantly recognize the show’s familiar music. The cast and crew have become more aware of the songs and the story of their show by watching online excerpts from the film “White Christmas,” co-starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, from 1954. Video websites including YouTube have been a great source for that, said David Seaburg, an area teacher who is directing his 11th fall musical for CLHS.
The school’s annual weekend of performances is always just days ahead of Thanksgiving, yet this is the first time Seaburg has selected a seasonal show for the program.
“White Christmas” is a lively musical. “Every number (song) is a ‘production number,’” Seaburg said.
The story, set right after World War II, features two friends and soldiers, Bob and Phil, who have returned to the entertainment industry after their military service. The friends meet sisters, Betty and Judy, who are entertainers in the same vein, and the four singer-dancers eventually head for a vacation resort in Vermont to present a Christmas show.
The men find that the lodge is owned by their former Army commander, General Waverly, but the business is suffering (no snow) and the entertainers work to surprise the general and save the lodge operation.
“It’s such a good story,” Seaburg said. “It has a holiday theme, but it’s more a story of people helping other people.”
He said the preparation and rehearsals have posed a challenge for his maturing cast, many of whom also presented the fantasy “Seussical” last November when they were less experienced on the stage.
“They brought their youth and energy to those performances,” he said. “This time I’m getting to the depth of real people telling stories about real people.”
He is assisted by costumer, Joleen Meyer; set construction leader, Mike Sandell; vocal director, Jacquie Undem; orchestra conductor, Joe DeLisi; technical adviser, Matt Mitchell; the director’s wife and assistant director, Gerry Seaburg, and the couple’s daughter and choreographer, Lauren Seaburg, a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota.
All of the scene and set changes are managed on stage by one of the program’s dedicated high school seniors, Celine Pliscott, whom Seaburg has appointed as stage manager for the second year. It is her third year of involvement in the fall productions; she began by singing with the nuns’ chorus for “The Sound of Music” in 2012. “The musical people are like my second family,” she said. “[Our director] Dave believes in everyone, and he places people where they are for a reason.”
“I have had a blast doing these musicals,” Pliscott added. “Getting to know more people and becoming one, big family is the key.”
Performances of “White Christmas” are scheduled 7 p.m. Nov. 20, 21 and 22, along with 2 p.m. matinees Nov. 22 and 23, in the school’s Performing Arts Center.
Seaburg notes that the Orpheum in downtown Minneapolis will be opening a production of “White Christmas” during the following week, but he said with confidence, “I swear (our show) is going to be a better production, because these kids have heart.”
Ticket prices for the school shows are $10 for adults, $8 for youth and also for adults who are minimum age 60. Tickets are available 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays from the box office adjacent to the auditorium, and sales will be open 60 minutes prior to each performance.
The public may also reserve tickets online at chisagolakes.tix.com, for a small service fee.