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Santa's Best Present - live theatre!
by Bobbie Wallinger for Caravan/eStockton.com

SANTA’S BEST PRESENT FOUND AT STOCKTON CIVIC THEATRE

No one wrote better music than the late, great, Irving Berlin, with “White Christmas” being perhaps the best of the best. So it was only natural that a fabulous musical with book by David Ives and Paul Blake would go from the famous film to a blockbuster Broadway Musical.

And thanks to Director Jim Coleman, Stockton Civic Theatre is currently staging what has to be one of the best productions of this joyful show done in Northern California.

In real-estate the key phrase is, “Location, Location, Location”. In theatre, the key phrase is, “Casting, Casting, Casting” and Coleman has outdone himself with the casting of “White Christmas”.

Starring Shaun Baker as Bob Wallace, James Reed, (Phil Davis), Lydia Merriam-Pigg as Betty Haynes and Tiffany Davis, (Judy Haynes) this amazing foursome are joined by one on the finest group of singers and dancers one could hope for.

Baker is perfect as the confirmed bachelor showman. His singing, dancing and acting make watching him a pure delight. Reed is his ideal foil and a superb dancer. The Haynes sisters are portrayed with all the fun, grace, and talent imaginable. Merriam-Pigg’s , “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me was breath-taking and the duet with Baker of, “How Deep Is The Ocean was both tender and sensual.

The engaging Ms. Davis, with mile-long legs and immense dance talent is divine and her numbers with Reed were terrific.

Of course, no dancers can look that good without superior choreography and Evelyn Barney deserves special recognition for the excellence of her craft. EVERY dance looked great on stage and the costuming by Cathy Hastings and Kathie Dixon was dynamite. Every costume fit properly and the color pallet was not overwhelmed by the stunning set created by Kenichi Takahashi.

Would that space would permit mentioning every performer in the cast but alas, space is limited, however, it would be criminal not address the incredibly wonderful Peggy Coleman (Martha Watson) whose comedic timing is spot on. Also fourth-grade student, Rachel Foley, (Susan Waverly), the little moppet who can, sing, dance and act holding her own against the talented Steven Orr, (General Waverly). The chemistry between the little girl and Shaun Baker brought a tear to the eye of most of the audience opening weekend, with the memorable, “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”, number.

Rita, (Melissa Esau) and Rhoda, (Terra Fearrand) brought a sassy, sexy, (but not too), with humor, glamour and again, great legs to the family show and Christopher Martin was a hoot.

If anyone living within driving distance misses this extraordinary family-fare production, they deserve to receive only a lump of coal in their stocking.

Best gift by far for this Holiday Season.

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