Wednesday, December 12, 2012

White Christmas: Interactive at the Mariemont and Esquire Theatres

Singing along with the classic movie could become a new tradition if you can get a ticket

Waiting for the Doors to Open
     Since White Christmas is Neil’s favorite seasonal movie (he watches it every year), changing things up with a cinema viewing seemed like a great way to go.  Last year, the Esquire sold out two sing along performances of White Christmas.  This year, two earlier showings were held at the Mariemont and we lucked out, going with Susan and Kurt.  It was sold out and many other audience members were dressed in Santa
caps and holiday colors.  The auditorium was decorated and included a tree.  I hope they keep these in place through the season.  Vixen, Mrs. Claus, an Elfette, and Santa opened the show and thanked Channel 12 for their support.  

The Audience Gets Ready for the Sing Along
     Like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, audience participation is encouraged and Santa outlines the cues and actions expected such as shaking hands when the characters do so onscreen.  However, there isn’t acting along with the movie, which is just as well.  The most hilarious element was throwing snow (we were all given a bag on entry) whenever ‘snow’ is mentioned and I was stunned how many times it’s uttered.  The two elderly ladies in front of us were very good sports about how much snow we threw on them and, by the end, they were throwing it back.  Neil and I started coughing when the first cigarette was lit and we were joined by a guy two rows in front and after that there was vociferous coughing whenever there was smoking.  I hope this is added to the list of cues and actions in the future because it was fun and continual.

The Sisters' Act
     Watching a cinema screen makes it easier to read a movie more thoroughly than on a home screen even after a number of times.  One recommended action was hissing or meowing whenever Rosemary Clooney’s character was either scowling or pouting and I’d forgotten that she does so almost half the time she isn’t singing.  It’s a tough part to play because she’s basically a scold, but fortunately Clooney’s charm supersedes the negativity of the role.  Her singing is excellent; she sings both parts of “Sisters”.  Bing Crosby was twenty-five years older than Clooney and it shows in their romance onscreen, thereby making me wonder if her character or his was supposed to have a Daddy complex.  (Crosby’s second wife, Kathryn, was thirty years younger than him).  

     Bing sounds great, but he never engages with anyone while singing; they might as well be listening to him on the radio.  Danny Kaye is highly energetic but, even though he had many dates with showgirls, doesn’t come across as straight.  His relationship with Vera-Ellen’s character centers more on their matchmaking than on any physical reaction; he seems half-terrified by her.  This is a shame since Ellen, a native of Norwood, gives the best performance in the movie.  She was a wonderful dancer, though startlingly thin, and was dubbed by Trudy Stevens, but she is always engaged and acting in the moment.  Unlike Kaye, there’s no shtick as a veneer over narcissism in her performing.  
Mary Wickes as the Housekeeper
Mary Wickes is a hoot as she was in many movies playing the housekeeper, who stirs the pot to provide some conflict, and Dean Jagger is excellent playing the General.  Actually, Kaye has much more chemistry with him than with Ellen.

The Final Scene
     The primary reason the movie still enchants is because of the score.  The songs and the dancing (the male dancers are crackerjack, including George Chakiris, also from Norwood) cut through most of the phony ‘50s Hollywood schmaltz and fakery – at times it’s impossible to tell the difference between the stage sets and the ‘real’ outdoor settings that look like they’ll fall over if the wind machine is turned on too strongly when the Germans attack during the 1944 prologue.  The audience participation was a ton of communal fun and I hope they bring it back next year.

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