“White Christmas” at Benedum; “Smart Blonde” Continues at City (CPs Tues., 11/18/14)


"Irving Berlin’s White Christmas 2013," national touring company. Photo: Kevin White

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas 2013,” national touring company. Photo: Kevin White

1) Ready or not here comes the Christmas season, so we may as well plunge right in. A good way to kick it off is with Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Once upon a time, plays were made into movies. Now movies are reverse-engineered for the stage, as touring musicals. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is from Paramount Pictures, which produced the film of the same name (with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) decades ago. The plot is about two friends putting on a show at a Vermont Inn that sparks a magical and fun experience and leads to both of them finding love. Great songs, dancing, sets, and costumes make this a winter classic. 7:30 p.m. Runs through Nov. 23. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District.


This old studio portrait of Holliday shows the inner spark outshining the glitz.

This old studio portrait of Holliday shows the inner spark outshining the glitz.

2) Judy Holliday, who put on a silly Betty Boop-ish accent to play ditzy blondes in movies of the 1950s, was, in fact, considered one of the smartest women in show business. She won an Oscar for Best Actress as a naïve but not-so-dumb gangster’s moll in Born Yesterday, navigated niftily between Hollywood and Broadway, and outfoxed interrogators who wanted her to name names of suspected Communist sympathizers during the blacklisting era. Smart Blonde traces Holliday’s remarkable life and times in a music-filled new play commissioned and given its world premiere by City Theatre. Playwright Willy Holtzman also wrote The Morini Strad, which City premiered in 2010. Smart Blonde, with Andréa Burns in the title role, is at the Lester Hamburg Studio Theater adjacent to 1300 Bingham St., South Side. 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21.

3) Radical remakes of vintage theater works are red-hot. The surprise hit in Chicago this season has been Sean Graney’s All Our Tragic, an epic 12-hour mashup of numerous ancient Greek tragedies, while Pittsburgh’s No Name Players scored with Fixing King John, by Kirk Lynn, which re-cast Shakespeare’s king as a tough-talking construction boss in a hard hat. Such plays don’t succeed merely on gimmickry. They deliver the goods, bringing old stories to throbbing modern life. In that vein comes The Trojan Women: A Love Story, written by the idiosyncratic Charles Mee as part of his lifelong “(re)making project.” The play is an updated riff on Euripides’ The Trojan Women, and its subject is one that remains all too pertinent: the shocking toll of war and conquest. 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 22. Philip Chosky Theater in Carnegie Mellon’s Purnell Center for the Arts, 5000 Forbes Ave., Oakland.

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Rick Handler

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