Hampton Bays High School debuts White Christmas” Hampton Bays High School debuts White Christmas" - 27 East

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Hampton Bays High School debuts White Christmas”

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authorWill James on Dec 15, 2009

Jesse Eaton, a lanky 16-year-old in a white tuxedo and top hat, stood at the edge of the stage as girls in snow-white dresses danced and twirled behind him.

“Blue days, all of them gone,” belted out the Hampton Bays High School junior. “Nothing but blue skies from now on.”

The setting was the rehearsal one week before the debut of the school’s winter musical, “White Christmas,” on Friday, December 18, with follow-up performances on Saturday and Sunday, December 19 and 20.

“White Christmas,” a stage rendition of the 1954 film of the same name, is an old-fashioned, feel-good musical. Its themes of seizing romance, helping out friends, counting blessings and embracing the Christmas spirit have a particular resonance in these complex and turbulent times, according to director Lori Ackerson, who teaches art at the school.

“We’re going through a tough time,” she said. “I think that’s why they chose it, to tell you the truth.”

All four principal actors are veterans of Hampton Bays High School theater.

In his first lead role after years of appearing in school performances, Mr. Eaton is playing Bob Wallace, the character played by Bing Crosby in the original film.

Wallace is a World War II veteran who made it big on Broadway after the war, along with his friend and performing partner, Phil Davis. Their lives get mixed up with a pair of mischievous sisters who are trying to break into the business, Betty and Judy Haynes. When the quartet discover that Bob and Phil’s former commander, General Henry Waverly, has fallen on hard times up in Vermont, they plan a major performance as a fund-raiser.

Jesse described his character as risk-averse and serious, despite his showbiz career. “White Christmas” is rich in humor, some of which is driven by the dynamic between the somewhat rakish Phil and the stodgy-by-comparison Bob.

“He’s always more sophisticated and never outgoing,” Jesse said. “He focuses more on work than romance.”

Hampton Bays junior Pawel Golyski will play Phil, a character he said is fun because he’s scheming and boisterous—he spends much of the play working in league with Judy, trying to get Bob and Betty together. In other words, he’s nothing like the real life Pawel, the 17-year-old said.

“It’s different from the normal person I am,” he said. “This character is really outgoing. He’s all over the place.”

Rachel Reed and Deborah Carlin—both 16-year-old juniors and best friends in real life—will play Betty and Judy Haynes.

Rachel said she most enjoys acting out the complicated love-hate relationship between Bob and Betty.

“That’s so much fun,” she said.

The students have been rehearsing five days a week since late October, Ms. Ackerson said, explaining that “White Christmas” is theater on a grand scale. It features 20 songs, numerous set and costume changes, as well as six dance routines.

Amy Stangasser, who teaches physical education at the high school, is serving as the choreographer. She designed all of the routines in her apartment, she said, striving to balance audience appeal with accessibility for the young actors. In the end, she said, the cast did her proud.

“It came out really, really great,” she said. “Everything I had in there they picked up.”

Despite being a stage spectacular, “White Christmas” deals with simple but pertinent themes, the actors said. According to Conor Press, 16, who will play a couple of smaller comedic roles, the messages include: “Just generally to be happy, enjoy holiday seasons, sticking with family.”

The first performance, on December 18, will begin at 7 p.m. at the high school. Another performance will be held on Saturday, December 19 at 7 p.m., and there will be a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.

Tickets are $5 in advance or $8 at the door; call 723-2100, ext. 5202.

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