Spite Christmas

Letters from a chorus girl from the play-within-a-play in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

In the 1954 classic White Christmas, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play a couple of army buddies turned Broadway producers (Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, respectively). Like many Hollywood musicals from the period, there’s a show within a show–this one is titled Playing Around, which Wallace and Davis bring up to Vermont in order to facilitate their Yuletide hijinks.

This year, when Alli and I were having our annual watch of this holiday classic, we kept thinking about how two random singer/dancers were added to the show at the last minute, and the effect this would have had on members of a professional production. This is the story of one of those chorus girls, based on Alli’s and my joking around.


Dear Mom and Dad,

I made it to Vermont! There’s nothing here. The town is apparently called Pine Tree, which seems a little on the nose. I’m only reasonably sure this town hasn’t been made up. We’re staying at a ski resort, but it hasn’t snowed since Thanksgiving, so it looks like we’re going to be performing for some squirrels (ha ha!) Seriously, though, a lot of shows will premiere new material in the sticks. And “Mandy,” that song that I have a dance solo in, is going to be some real career-building stuff! Everybody in the chorus is being really supportive, too; they’re excited to see one of their own make it big.

Well, they’re loading up the car to the lodge now, so I need to cut this short. I promise a real letter once things have started up.

Love,
Mandy


Dear Mom and Dad,

We have some new cast members, which… is nice. No, it’s lovely, and they’re lovely. The stage manager said he couldn’t get everybody back on short notice. Some people just couldn’t make the scheduling work, and some people reported him to the union. (Don’t worry, Dad, they’ve in turn been duly reported to House Un-American Activities Committee.) Anyway, there were a few holes in the show and we were told that they’d be filling them with local talent. These girls are a sister act, and you’ll never believe it–they were playing in Florida when we were there for the last leg of our tour! What are the odds! Mr. Wallace and Mr. Davis are being really nice to them, which is sweet–the poor girls have to be having a rough time of it joining the chorus in a show at the last minute. We spent today doing some touch-up rehearsals for some of the old numbers. We’ll start the new numbers tomorrow.

Love,
Mandy


Dear Mom and Dad,

That skinny bitch from Florida took my dance number! Never mind that the choreographer and I collaborated on it. Never mind that this was supposed to be my breakout. NEVER MIND THAT MY NAME IS FUCKING MANDY! This musical coat-rack is just going to waltz in here and take my number? Who the hell is she?

Oh well. She can have it. Now that the song has been put in its scene, it’s apparently part of a large number glorifying minstrel shows. Seriously? I know it’s only 1954, but this is one of the few forms of progress we’ve made at this particular point in history. Also, every joke in the minstrel show scene is about how bad the jokes were in minstrel shows so… what is there to miss exactly? Some of the chorus members who have been with the company for a few years said that this is nothing, though. When I’m back home, have me tell you about this number they did a few years ago for Lincoln’s birthday.

Love,
Mandy

PS: Thank you for sending the deli tray. It stinks being so far from home this time of year, so it’s nice to have a little taste of home. I look forward to tucking into it for my birthday tomorrow.


Dear Mom and Dad,

Remember how I said that the dance-thief is part of a sister act? I’ve not talked about her sister much because she’s not really been causing any problems. I mean, sure, she never initials the sign-in sheet and everybody in stage management has decided to be okay with it but… whatever. It’s not like they’ve been completely re-writing the show for her.

Guess who wanted a midnight snack with the director last night! And guess what they decided to nosh on! It’s fine. Mr. Wallace is only richer than God. He absolutely needed to raid the chorus’s communal ice-box. But fine. Whatever. He’s the director; he’s allowed to be oblivious about the lives of the people in his show. But this Florida chick? She was backstage with us! She even heard me go on about the special liverwurst you can only get at Dad’s butcher shop!

I swear to God, if I come home and can’t remember our dog’s name, you should shoot me on sight, because one of these girls has stolen my fucking face!

Love,
Mandy (or is it!)


Dear Mom and Dad,

I know you think it’s silly how many dance classes I take throughout the year, but it’s what you have to do to stay fit and current in this business. Well, we in the chorus have been teaching classes to each other to stay sharp, and the other day I led a class in modern technique, and guess what! Mr. Phil Davis joined my class! He’s is an excellent tapper, but he was having some difficulty with the newer moves. Like, “almost requiring medical attention” difficulty. He excused himself for “producer duties” partway through, but it was nice that he even stopped in. It’s hard work being in the chorus of a show. You work and work and work, and you always feel like background. So when someone so high up takes his time to see just what you’re capable of, it’s really something. It was exactly the boost in spirits I needed after all that re-casting nonsense.

Anyway, today we just learned a whole new song and routine about how modern dance sucks. “I hate choreography! I prefer dance!” What a stupid thing to say! It’s like, “I hate liquids, so I only drink water!” And this thing has some really involved orchestrations. He must have been working on this song all night. If the man put half as much work into his modern as he does into being a petty little shit, he could land a decent barrel turn without stomping on the feet of three different dancers. Gee, Mr. Davis, would you have liked choreography more if you’d seen it in a minstrel show?

Love,
Mandy


Dear Mom and Dad,

So much news! We had a cast party last night, and that dancing spaghetti-noodle is now engaged to Mr. Davis. That certainly answers some questions about all this suspicious casting, but now I’m out the five bucks I bet about Phil Davis.

You remember the Lunch Meat Bandit? She’s gone. Poof, thin air, with no advanced notice or anything. That just shows what you get when you cast with random lounge acts–there’s no sense of professionalism at all. The good news is that I’ve inherited her musical numbers. Mother, there’s this gorgeous Mrs. Claus dress I’m going to wear in the finale–I have to see if I can send you a photo of it. It’s really soothed the sting of losing my big number. And she’s really shown her true colors, flaking out at the last minute and leaving us all in the lurch. I hope she enjoyed being the lead for a minute, because there’s no way she’s ever going to be able to get into a chorus after this, let alone land a plum role again.

I know I grouse about the theatre life from time to time, but ultimately theatre hierarchies are just. And casting is the most fair part of the entire process.

Love,
Mandy


Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, we finally had some snow up here, just when I was about to burn this whole place to the ground.

So the show was re-tooled around this benefit concert for the old man who runs this lodge. Apparently he was in the army with Mr. Wallace and Mr. Davis. It’s all really sweet. And we had this number at the beginning where we were all singing about wanting to be back in the Army. It was a fun number! And when I say “we,” I don’t mean the chorus. This was one of the numbers I inherited when the Salami Salome skipped town. This was a featured song and dance number! I mean, it ends with these weird oversized puppets swallowing our bodies which is… a choice, but it was still a fun piece.

Was.

I was getting into costume (this cute little WAC uniform) when there was a knock at my dressing room. Yep, star on the door and everything! It was the stage manager and Guess Who! That’s right, the Lunchmeat Looter! Apparently when Mr. Wallace went on Ed Harrison, he also stopped by the rat-trap where she was singing and begged her to come back. Because that’s exactly what you want when you’ve got thousands of dollars sunk into a show, right? A lead actress who’s as dependable as a wool condom. I wish I could even say that she just waltzed in, but I’m not even sure she can waltz. Oh well, it’s only a dance show. But the part is hers now! And I was told to get back into my chorus parts. So during the finale, I had to smile warmly at this sketchy-ass drama queen in my Mrs. Claus dress.

Oh, and in the final number, we had to vamp for several measures because the leads stopped singing. They were making out behind the Christmas tree. During a show! They can all eat the entirety of my ass. Stage management is pretty pissed, too, because as soon as they found out it was snowing, Bob Wall-Ass and Phil Doofus said, “Hey, let’s open these giant doors onto the stage!” So now there’s hundreds of dollars in sets and costumes that have been ruined by snow.

Honestly, this whole ordeal has turned me off of the stage forever.

I’m going out west to act on screen, because that’s and industry that treats people fairly!

Love,
Mandy

One thought on “Spite Christmas

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s