ALIVE Interview: A Chat with ‘White Christmas’ Star Kelly Sheehan

During the holidays, my family and I used to have a planned-out watchlist (before that was a word) leading up to Christmas: Christmas Eve would be “It’s a Wonderful Life;” “White Christmas” would be the day itself. Sometimes we would swap—sometimes it was “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” instead of “White Christmas,” maybe—but it was almost always the two of those, to the point where my mom might give the slightest roll of her eyes when we popped one of them in the DVD player. Sure, it’s a little kitschy, but Dad and I liked the tradition. He was a pilot, and usually he could get time off for Christmas. Maybe this two-night ritual kept him grounded, made him feel stable and really present in the warmth a family wraps around themselves during this time of year.

“White Christmas,” in stage form, opens tonight at The Fabulous Fox Theatre. We had a chance to catch up with Kelly Sheehan, who plays lead Judy Haynes, and chat about the production and why it means as much now—in a vastly changed world that isn’t quite so black and white—as it ever did.

The Irving Berlin’s White Christmas 2014 National Tour Company | photo by Kevin White

The Irving Berlin’s White Christmas 2014 National Tour Company | photo by Kevin White

You’ve been playing in White Christmas for 10 years. That’s a fairly long time to be doing the same production in the theater world. What keeps you coming back to it?

Fortunately I’ve been a few different roles within the show, so it’s kept it fresh, and there’s something new to learn every few years. It’s a great production. I love the story; it’s a very happy show, and there’s so much dancing in it. I love all the tap numbers and the jazz numbers, and it’s just a fantastic show to do physically, and it keeps you busy during the holidays. We do have returning members each year, and we’ve become a close-knit group, and everyone who does the show is family—especially over the holidays.

What about “White Christmas”—which is set in a very specific era in a very specific setting—renders itself timeless?

I do think it is a family tradition for so many families in America, and all over the world people know about the film and have been watching it for years,and it’s fantastic to bring it on stage, and it’s definitely becoming a tradition on stage … . It takes people back to a simpler time and a time people remember. Some people don’t remember and don’t know. It’s cool to educate them as well and show them what was going on that time.

What’s your favorite part about the role of Judy?

So far it’s been in the ensemble, and  they have cute little silly girls that kind of have a feature, and I’ve played them for awhile. I’ve only understudied Judy for four years, and I got to go on last year. I got go to on for actually a whole week last year, which was such a great experience, and I loved it, and I’m so excited to play it again this year. I think Judy is funky and funny and smart and pretty sneaky, and she kind of gets her sister and her love interest into a few situations that they have to be smart enough to get themselves out of, and she kind of gets the ball rolling on a lot of plotlines. So it’s definitely fun to be a sneaky and upbeat character, and she gets to dance a lot in the show which is definitely my favorite.

“White Christmas” runs at the Fox Nov. 17-22. 

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