All My Grandmas Are Dead
Thanks for Reminding Me, Irving Berlin
There are several ways you can make White Christmas work to your advantage. You can memorize and copy the outfits (ladies: full skirts or sailor shorts with heels and a scarf; gentlemen: sweater vests). You can pad your sass arsenal with old-timey quips like "freckle-faced [insert enemy's name], the dog-faced boy" and "This is like traveling in a ration can with Rip Van Winkle!" Comedy gold, I tell you. But most importantly, make sure to Take Your Grandma. I cannot stress this enough.
Originally filmed in 1954 as a star vehicle for Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, White Christmas has since been adapted for the stage, to the collective swoon of grandmas across the land. But a star vehicle isn't quite the same without its stars (the leads, though excellent performers, resemble Phil Hartman and Shelley Long more than Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney), and the wispy plot picks up none of the slack. It concerns Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, two famous song-and-dance men who put on a show to save their former general's failing country hotel (and woo a couple of ladies in the process).
Irving Berlin is a swell composer, but some songs have held up better than others: "White Christmas/Happy Holidays" is narcotically familiar, and I'm still humming "Blue Skies," but filler like "What Can You Do with a General?" (addressing the imaginary problem of unemployed top brass: "There were jobs galore/for the G.I. Josephs who were in the war/but for generals things were not so grand") is just weird.
White Christmas is perfectly fine old-school musical theater: warm, idealized, tidy. And I do love me some tap-dancing. But after the fake snow and halfhearted audience sing-along, the whole thing just reminded me that in real life, Christmas is expensive and it almost never snows here. So not only are all my Christmases not-white, all my grandmas are not-alive. Irving Berlin is a jerk.