WHITE CHRISTMAS is not only a classic holiday film, it’s also a well-known Broadway musical that tours the country every Christmas season. With spectacular tap numbers by Randy Skinner, memorable Irving Berlin music, and (spoiler alert) snow on stage, WHITE CHRISTMAS is a beloved musical that will never go out of style. Jo+Jax was able to interview ensemble dancer, Stephanie Brooks, who joined the tour this year.
Read on to hear about Randy Skinner’s iconic choreography, Stephanie’s favorite moments in the show, and tips and tricks for living “on the road.”
How did you come to learn the style (and then perform it in 42nd street and set the second national tour)?
My classical ballet, jazz, and tap training gave me a head start, as Randy’s style uses a lot of epaulement and quick footwork and turns. I was pretty new to musical theatre when Randy Skinner and Mary Giattino took a chance on me for a regional production of 42ND STREET at Gateway Playhouse. I would emulate the other dancers who had done the show with him before (3 of which I get to dance with again in this production!), study old movie musicals, and soak up every note and direction given. 2 years later, I had the chance to continue to learn from Randy and Kelli Barclay for the National Tour of 42ND STREET, where I was dance captain and an onstage swing and understudy for Phylis, Lorraine, and Peggy Sawyer. During the 10-month tour I learned a lot from being in and seeing the show from a myriad of angles and was honored when asked to set the show for year two of the tour. I have taught master classes all around the country and in NYC and hope to continue to share the love of this style for future generations.
Randy’s movement quality is unique and classic. What advice do you have for dancers who are unfamiliar with, but want to learn, the style?
Take ballet, study the jazz and tap master teachers, watch old movie musicals, and take class whenever you can with Randy and those who have studied under him. YouTube is a great resource for watching old clips of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers, Eleanor Powell, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, and many more!
You’re one of the newer members to join the cast. Was it intimidating to learn all the material when the majority of the company already knew it?
It was a lot of material to learn in a short time, but the cast and creative team were extremely supportive and efficient. Only another girl and I were new to the ensemble this year. We had a private ‘boot camp’ for two days to learn the material and then 8 days with the rest of the cast. I had to go home at night and do lots of homework. One of the best ways to learn Randy’s style is to feel the essence of others who have been doing the style longer than you. I feel privileged to join such an experienced cast and am enjoying growing and learning by dancing side by side with them.
What is the most magical part about performing in WHITE CHRISTMAS?
The finale is very magical with the iconic red costumes and muffs, snow and lighting, and the entire company onstage. I get chills when we stand and sing “White Christmas” and see the audience’s response. You can feel the power of unity and family and holiday nostalgia.
What is your favorite number in the show?
“Blue Skies” has always been one of my favorite songs and the arrangement in this show is incredible. The excitement of the number builds throughout and has breakout features of the ensemble dancers as well as powerful unison moments, hysterical scene work weaving in and out, and classic cane and hat choreography. It is a privilege to get to do this original choreography.
Is it hard to be away from your family during this season? How does the cast plan to celebrate the holidays?
We are extremely fortunate that we close on Christmas Eve and I’ll be able to be home for Christmas morning. Work Light Productions (I also did the tour of MAMMA MIA with this company) does a wonderful job of creating a family atmosphere and makes us feel taken care of and will be providing a Thanksgiving meal for us. We get to celebrate Christmas a little longer by singing holiday songs for 2 months of tour and decorating our dressing rooms with snowflakes, doing secret Santa, and experiencing holiday festivities all across the country.
You’re a touring expert! What items do you always pack that dancers might not think of? What are your favorite parts of being “on the road?”
I love exploring the outdoors, museums, and local foods in each city. I’m always surprised by the beauty and diversity of our country. I love getting to connect with old friends all across the country and seeing their city through their eyes! I also like to travel with things that remind me of home—photographs of loved ones, little meaningful gifts, and a rice cooker to make homecooked meals in my hotel. I have made hamburgers, frittatas, and tacos in my rice cooker. I also am obsessed with anything chili and lime flavored and always carry the spice, Tajin.