When thinking about the top classic Christmas films, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is bound to be somewhere on most people’s lists. The musical version of this merry seasonal favorite makes a stop at the Wharton Center this December as part of the national tour. CAWLM talked to Kerry O’Malley, who plays the role of Betty Haynes.
She’s got a history
O’Malley first played Betty Haynes when White Christmas was in its second year on stage. It opened in San Francisco, CA, in 2004.
“There were three companies that performed the show that year, and I performed with the Boston company,” said O’Malley. “The next year, there were two companies, and I was in St. Paul, and then the following year, was back in Boston.”
O’Malley isn’t the first in her family to pursue acting. Her brother, Mike, became an actor around the same time as she did. O’Malley’s aunt was also a successful actor.
“We had a good role model in my aunt,” said O’Malley. There was also great support from her Mom and Dad. “I think that the fact that we were talented helped. If we hadn’t been, I think it would have been different.”
The great Rosemary Clooney
Anyone who has seen the movie White Christmas knows that the late Rosemary Clooney played the role of Betty Haynes. It’s hard to forget “Sisters” and “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me.” So was O’Malley ready to take her on?
“It was very daunting. She’s one of the greatest singers ever,” O’Malley said.
What made the challenge less daunting was the difference between the show on stage versus film. O’Malley said, “It’s a different version, being on stage. You may not have the same intimate feel as you do with a close-up shot, but the orchestration in this show is just as fantastic.”
There is also the fact that fans of the movie are very passionate about the story and music itself. The audience wants to be whisked away to that place where miracles happen — and happen to good people.
For such a time as this
As White Christmas comes to the Wharton Center, the correlation between the storyline and Michigan’s current hardships isn’t lost on O’Malley.
“I think that this show is coming at a great time for Michigan. The music is happy and joyful, and it’s about people coming together to help one of their own,” O’Malley said. “It’s a reminder today of what we can give family and friends — ourselves.”
White Christmas reminds us of a simpler time, and how great it feels to do something for those who can’t do it for themselves. With great music, costuming and sets, this will be one show that will add to the holiday spirit.