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Spending a 'White Christmas' in O.C.

Veteran stage and screen actress Ruth Williamson plays concierge Martha Watson in the holiday show at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

December 08, 2011|By Candice Baker
  • Ruth Williamson stars as Martha Watson in Irving Berlin's "White Christmas."
Ruth Williamson stars as Martha Watson in Irving Berlin's… (Courtesy Tanner…)

Dreaming of a white Christmas in sunny Southern California?

To see snow really fall in Costa Mesa, just buy a ticket for one of the holiday season's hottest tickets: the Broadway musical version of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

The tale of two talented World War II Army buddies who make it big on Broadway, find their true loves, then help their former commander save a dilapidated New England inn has become an American classic.

The musical version of "White Christmas," which debuted in San Francisco in 2004, shares the 1954 Bing Crosby film's plot, but takes divergences in plot details and in musical numbers. Famous tunes like the title song and "Blue Skies" are incorporated into the musical, but several extravagant song-and-dance numbers were also added.

"I think people will be pleasantly surprised," said actress Ruth Williamson, who portrays inn concierge Martha Watson in the show. "It's quite beautiful and quite lavish, and I think Costa Mesa's going to enjoy it. We actually bring you snow!"

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Having been in the show for several years, starting with its Broadway run, Williamson said one of its key challenges is keeping "White Christmas" fresh each night for each new audience.

"I have a little speech I say to myself each night," Williamson said. "I say, 'OK, I'm going to give it the best I've got, and I'm gonna try to tell the story the best I can, and serve the play. And whatever happens, I hope it's good enough.'

"And so far, so good."

Williamson's background is extremely diverse; in addition to a wide range of stage roles on and off Broadway, she has appeared in television shows ranging from "Monk" to "Star Trek: Enterprise" to "Hannah Montana," as well as a celebrated multiseason role on "Nip/Tuck." Her films include "Evan Almighty," "The Producers" and "Malcolm X."

When asked about her large volume of work, both onstage and onscreen, Williamson had a simple answer: "One thing at a time."

Williamson said she considers herself to be a hybrid stage and screen actress, but leans predominantly toward stage work.

"I love the immediacy of the response you get onstage," she said. "But I also really enjoy television. It's a different challenge, a different technique. I like variety."

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