With not a snowflake in sight in North Texas, it can be hard to find that classic holiday spirit this time of year. Luckily, the Grand Prairie Arts Council (GPAC) is bringing the magic of a snowy “White Christmas” to the stage with its adaptation of the iconic Bing Crosby film that families know and love.
“I just knew that this was a project that I really wanted to be a part of because, for me, there is no greater magic than this holiday season and coming together and finding love and friendship and building those relationships,” GPAC “White Christmas” Director Michelle Phillips said.
Phillips called the opportunity to direct the GPAC show “an incredible honor,” explaining that the theater has become like family to her. She calls GPAC her “home theater,” having worked with the council for over a decade and crediting it with helping her discover a love for the stage.
The idea of bringing that familial joy to audiences through a well-known, multigenerational favorite like “White Christmas” also appeals to Adam Seirafi.
Seirafi, who stars as Bob Wallace, called the show “a good medium for families to come together and enjoy something and get in that Christmas spirit.”
“We’re in Grand Prairie, Texas. There’s not snow everywhere, so to give them an escape into a Christmas winter wonderland, I think, is really sweet and really special,” Seirafi said, emphasizing the show’s appeal to audience members of all ages.
The classic feel of the show is a large part of what inspired Seirafi to join the production, along with the opportunity to work with Phillips and GPAC once again.
“I really like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Dean Martin. Those kinds of guys I feel like suit my voice, and that’s the kind of music I like to sing,” Seirafi said, referring to it as a “rare pleasure to get to sing this kind of music, which I really enjoy.”
Both Seirafi and Phillips praised the cast and crew for bringing Irving Berlin’s score to life with beautiful singing and choreography.
“There’s so many good numbers, and there’s so many talented people,” Seirafi said, highlighting the work of castmates like Olivia Goodspeed as the show’s Betty Haynes.
“It’s been such a wonderful process,” Goodspeed said, explaining that this will be her first lead role around Dallas after moving to the area following her graduation in 2022. She said that working on the production has been a “magical experience” that’s allowed her to tap into the “beautiful lyrics” and music of the show.
Goodspeed also found the opportunity to accentuate some of the sides of her character that she feels aren’t always as prevalent in other productions, helping make GPAC’s “White Christmas” stand out.
“Betty is a strong independent woman, and sometimes I feel like she can be portrayed as sweet, which she is, but she’s very independent,” Goodspeed said, adding that she feels she’s “actually learned a lot through Betty (that) I have applied to my life” thanks to understanding the character’s independence and strength.
Goodspeed described how she sees her character as challenging the traditional view of women as housewives that was more prevalent in the 1950s when “White Christmas” debuted because she “knows she can live without a man, so that’s why she doesn’t think she needs love.” It’s an element she feels can become lost in other adaptations.
“(Betty) falls in love because she chooses to, and she doesn’t fall in love because she has to,” Goodspeed said.
Similarly, Phillips also strives to differentiate the Grand Prairie Arts Council production of “White Christmas” from others while simultaneously retaining what makes it such a timeless story. She detailed how the stage adaptation of the story allows it to take a more in-depth look at the story while still retaining the show’s famous songs and scenes.
“When (people) come and they buy a ticket…there’s expectations that you have as an audience member and patron that you want to see,” Phillips said. “But, I think for me and the cast and the crew, it’s also finding ways to make Grand Prairie Arts Council’s production stand out and be different and finding ways to incorporate newer technology as well as some of the practical magic of the theater.”
Phillips said that the production will use projections to help create different scenes while also bringing in a painted backdrop for the show’s opening and utilizing the “gorgeous” practical set pieces created by the production’s set designer, GPAC Chief Operations Officer Matt Betz.
“It’s an amalgamation of, don’t change what’s not broken (and) let’s bring what everybody loves, but let’s add our own flair because the cast and crew have just been dynamite,” Phillips said.
Phillips, Seirafi and Goodspeed all agreed that they hope the hard work and efforts of the Grand Prairie Arts Council production pay off by making “White Christmas” a show that captures the uplifting beauty, magic and togetherness of the holidays.
“One of my favorite things about musical theater is that escape that you have (for both) the actors and the audience,” Goodspeed said, emphasizing that each person in the cast, crew and audience may be going through something different in life before coming together to share a couple hours with GPAC. “If I can sing a song for someone who had a terrible day and make them smile, that’s just moving to me.”
The Grand Prairie Arts Council production of “White Christmas” runs from December 8-17 at Uptown Theater. For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit https://www.artsgp.org/.These interviews have been edited for clarity.