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“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” brings its star home for the holidays


Dreaming of a white Christmas? Jeremiah James is jazzed living it.

The Upper Black Eddy resident is feeling down home and comfy at Bucks County Playhouse, where he stars these days in “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” the stage version of the 1954 classic flick about two Army alums (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye), now show biz buds, who tag team with two singing sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen as the Haynes sibs) to save the fate of an old veering-off course Vermont country inn run by their former Army boss.

From serving their country to saving this country inn: What’s a haloed holiday hero to do? James’ Bob Wallace (the Crosby character) knows: Put on your dancing shoes and tap the twinkling tinsel out of them.

“I feel 100 percent comfortable following in his shoes,” says protean performer James, a fan with fleeting feet himself, of icon Crosby.

As he does following in the bucolic tradition that Bucks conjures. “I grew up in a small town in New York, and Bucks...New Hope...offers that same kind of wonderful, comfortable feeling of community,” a homeyness that allows him to bring it all home on and off the stage.

And Bucks is just one stage of his multifaceted movable feast of a career. After N.Y. he spent his teen time in Los Angeles, eventually jettisoning and reversing Horace Greeley’s once-sage advice of “Go West, young man.” Instead, James moved East, to Bucks, taking up residence in Upper Black Eddy, childhood home of his wife.

He has found a home here along with room to grow all over the states and Europe, finding roles and raves in L.A. and London, and discovering his own band aid in the form of being part of Teatro, whose first album release reflected his love for the music of the night that fills theater stages worldwide.

But then, James has always jimmied and jived to the sounds of music that are showtunes and has shown off his acting chops to acclaim in productions of musicals such as “Oklahoma!” and “Crazy for You.”

With such a snowballing career, “White Christmas” is no mere ornament dangling from his extraordinary bio.

“That is such a staple of celebrating the holidays,” says James of the 1942 Oscar-winning song that originally appeared in the movie “Holiday Inn” before lending its title and tune to the 1954 Crosby-Kaye flick. “Bing had such a distinctive voice,” with that slip-into-a-pair-of-slippers bass baritone tonality. “When that song starts, you just feel such a well of nostalgia, where that song draws up Christmases past,” notes the star.

Indeed this misty musical based on a 70-year-old movie proves that sometimes old chestnuts crack open to reveal the sweet meat of memories inside.

With a nod to eggnog and a hello to hot cider, what better way to make his BCP debut than channeling the spirit and sentimentality of one of Christmastime’s classics adapted for the stage?

James loves the pageantry and colors that come with a white Christmas but he’s no snowflake; Playing the veteran Bob Wallace, James is a veteran of stage and screen whose dance muscles get a workout onstage, tapping to the tunes of tinsel steps that bring out the Bing he can now binge on.

“The stage version,” he notes, “holds so much of the Christmas spirit” from the film. “It captures the simplest nature of time, of what it means to hope.”

He has hopes elsewhere, as well; key to those dreams beyond white Christmases is a dark, brooding musical up to its neck in a subplot about...necrophilia? “It Happened in Key West” happens to be based on an actual tale from the 1930s in which a young x-ray technician techs out a beautiful patient dying of tuberculosis and tries to save her life, then absconds with her body and lives with the corpse for seven years.

“I have been working on this for 10 years,” says James as co-lead producer and co-writer of the macabre and murky musical that combines tales of disparate impossible and improbable love stories. “It contains elements of ‘Sweeney Todd,’ ‘Man of la Mancha,’ ‘Crazy for You’ and ‘Weekends at Bernie’s.’”

And, after the next few weekends, James will find out how responsive audiences will be: The show, which had a long run in London, opens next month at the Fulton Theater in Lancaster. “It is a story of love and loss, I think of it,” says its producer, “as a family show, meant to bring joy to all ages of audiences.”

If anyone’s wary of the content, none other than a group of nuns gave the production the most heavenly reviews.

“Twelve nuns, all from Spain, came to see the show when I was doing it in London. I went down to them to see what kind of reaction they had,” James said. “They started to hug me. ‘It is so beautiful,’ they said to me. ‘It is heaven.’”

For now, James also has a special holiday feeling about his little slice of heaven at BCP. And when the curtain falls at night, he has much to fall back on, including a home that’s in keeping with the charm and coziness coming from a country inn.

“This is the first time,” he says, “in my professional career that I can drive home in my own car after a show and get into my own bed to sleep.”

And this actor/producer of note can just drift off...counting his blessings.

Michael Elkin is a playwright, theater critic and novelist who lives in Abington. He writes columns about theater and the arts.

If You Go

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” based on the classic 1954 holiday film, is being staged through the end of the year at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope.

Besides the Oscar-winning title song, the show features such numbers as “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep),” “I Love a Piano,” “How Deep Is the Ocean?” and “Sisters.”

For information, visit

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