White Christmas. Not “a” white Christmas mind you, I don’t like the winter, or snow, or shoveling my car, or having numb limbs and a red runny nose, or not being able to wear open toe shoes – I can do without the literal result of the lyric. The movie on the other hand, is a Christmas requirement and long standing family tradition.
We have an gargantuan artificial tree. It has about 12 layers of limbs. On each circular layer of limbs are 6-12 individual boughs. On each bough there are approximately thirty-ish twig sprigs. And to think I saw it on Mulberry Street. No, just kidding, but it sounded like it was going in that direction. Each of these twig sprigs have to be curled up uniquely to mimic a real tree’s natural growth pattern. Now math’s definitely not my strong point, but I can add up that all that arranging, assembling and primpage takes a lot longer than picking up an authentic, seasonally scented spruce or fragrant fir, however, it’s just long enough to make 120 minutes of song, dance, giggles and nostalgia the soundtrack.
Though the bookends of “White Christmas” are where the Yuletide bits lie, the gooey classic musical comedy center is – like the Oreo- the best part for me. There is a scene from a number called “Choreography” where we get a delicious piece of tap dancery from Vera Ellen, her foot vibrates on the floor faster than a drum roll as the camera pans up to a sensational costume and off we go into another lavish dancetravaganza. I joined tap class because of that moment. I can remember tying up my patent leather tap shoes, click clockiting into the studio channeling Vera Ellen, Ann Miller and the precociousness of Shirley Temple and querying Ms. Nellie Lou (which is so perfect a name for a dance teacher, I didn’t have to make a better one up) when we would be learning “Choreography,” meaning: how long till I can have flutter feet like in “White Christmas?” She told me – undoubtedly duly impressed at my enthusiasm- “half way through the dance block to get ready for our end of the year recital.” Well, I didn’t learn Vera Ellen super hoofing half way through my first year of tap dance, sadly, but I did experience lowercase “c” choreography and could shuffle ball change, flap, ball change with the best of them.
“Mandy” was another hey-we’ve-got-stars-look-what-we-can-do number with more luscious costumes and over the top production elements. That’s what this little lady picture is. Dripping with sequins and adoring male back up dancers Vera Ellen once again inspired me to glitz greatness. Somewhere, someone must make floofy bedazzled skirted creations like that, and it one day shall be mine. One day did come, but the costume was not destined for me. My cousin took dance too, and she had a mint green dance costume with an tulle tapered skirt just like in this scene and there is a picture of us in the lobby outside of the recital- she, in her perfection, make up, and innocence- and me standing next to her in street clothes and raw jealousy, giving her the death stare because she had my White Christmas costume, even if she didn’t know it.
And if that anecdote doesn’t give you holiday cheer, nothing rounds out the season like a little cross dressing. Actually, the rumor goes that the “Sister, Sister” reprise with Bing and Danny wasn’t even in the script for the movie, but they were goofing around on set one day and the director thought it was gut busting and wrote it in. My real life sister and I did this number for a talent show in elementary school (I was Vera Ellen of course), complete with our own awesome feather diva fans and two male class mates who begrudgingly played drag for the whole school. So Emery and Barret, wherever you are in this world, thank you for making our family White Christmas a reality.
Happy Festivus All!