Gateway’s holiday show a White Christmas reunion, LI homecoming
(Bellport, N.Y.) — For Broadway veterans and Long Island natives David Ruttera and Mary Giattino — “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” [December 14 – 30 at the Patchogue Theatre] proves that, for the holidays, you can’t beat home sweet home. Thanks to the Long Island premiere of the classic musical, director Ruttera and choreographer Giattino have returned to the Gateway, the place where their friendship and artistic partnership began a decade ago.
“He was part of a group that I grew up with at Gateway,” Giattino, an alum of the Gateway Acting School, said.
“We became immediate friends,” Ruttura said, adding that even their birthdays are two days apart.
The fast friends soon turned into artistic collaborators when Gateway management charged the fledgling artists, she was 21 and he was 19, with creating an original stage version of “The Jungle Book,” from the ground up.
The result was a hit and the show was extended by popular demand, which Ruttura says is “unheard of for a children’s show.” In the years that followed, the two moved up the Gateway ranks together — he as an assistant stage manager and she as a dance captain and choreographer — until they found their way into the Broadway spotlight, accidentally together.
As fate would have it, the friends were reunited after landing positions — Ruttura as assistant director and Giattino as assistant choreographer — on the tour of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.” And, when the show transferred to Broadway in 2008, the two friends followed it’s success.
Giattino marvels at how lucky the two were to be assisting “at a young age,” considering the reputations of their bosses, Walter Bobbie and Randy Skinner. Despite this potential hindrance, the two made some lasting relationships with Bobby, the Tony Award-winning director of “Chicago,” and Skinner, the Tony nominated choreographer of “42nd Street.”
“Randy has been part of the show since the beginning and trusts Dave and I,” Giattino said. “I’ll be setting Randy’s original choreography and he will be here to help supervise and watch runs of the show.”
The upcoming production of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” is, of course, not the first time Ruttura and Giattino have sat in the captain’s chair. He is currently on leave from an resident director position with “Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark.” She has served as resident choreographer for the national tour of “Billy Elliot” and has choreographed many musicals for Gateway.
And, given Ruttura and Giattino’s extensive experience with the show, each are tuned in to the balance required to keep the integrity of the original vision, while giving room for the unique qualities of each company.
“It’s a complex show with vivid pictures. That is what I have to recreate,” Ruttura said. “That being said, every time you have different performers, you have a different interpretation.”
“We have two less male dancers than in the original choreography, which is what Randy actually prefers. And the intent will be the same,” Giattino said. “There are at least seven production numbers in the show. It’s huge, a classic Broadway piece.
As an extra bonus to Broadway buffs, the original set, which Ruttura refers to as “a postage card,” will be featured in Gateway’s production. Giattino believes that this is the first time the scenery has been used outside of the Broadway staging.
With rehearsals now underway, the two are looking forward to showcasing the fruits of their artistic friendship to Long Island audiences this holiday season.
This live, musical adaptation is based on the 1954 film, “White Christmas,” starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney. Originally released as a follow-up to Berlin and Crosby’s 1942 film “Holiday Inn,” “White Christmas” tells the story of two ex-army buddies who save a picturesque Vermont inn by lending their showbiz expertise and find true love while they’re at it.
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” with book by David Ives and Paul Blake, features 17 songs by the great American composer and lyricist, such as, “Blue Skies,” “Happy Holidays,” “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm,” “Let Yourself Go,” “Sisters” and “White Christmas.”
The show made its world premiere as a touring production in 2006 and transferred to Broadway’s Marriott Marquis Theatre for the 2008 and 2009 holiday seasons. Directed by Tony Award-winner Walter Bobbie and choreographed by Tony nominee Randy Skinner, the holiday musical was nominated for two Tony Awards and six Drama Desk Awards. Gateway’s production will use the original Broadway set on the stage of the Patchogue Theatre.
Christopher Vettel and Matthew LaBanca will play the song and dance team of Bob Wallace and Phil Davis.
Vettel last appeared on the Gateway stage as Alex in the Berlin revue, “I Love a Piano.” Other productions include tours of “Sunset Boulevard,” “Cabaret” and the 30th Anniversary Tour of “Annie.”
LaBanca played the roles of Jimmy and Scooter in the Broadway production of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” and understudied for the title role in Broadway’s “Young Frankenstein.” National tours include “The King and I,” “Anything Goes,” “Joseph… Dreamcoat” and “Crazy for You.”
Trista Moldovan and Alissa Alter are the “devoted” Haynes sisters, Betty and Judy.
Moldovan played Christine in the Broadway and touring productions of “Phantom of the Opera.” Television appearances include “All My Children,” “Celebrity Ghost Stories” and “Guiding Light.”
Altler was dance captain for Arena Stage’s production of “The Music Man,” and also performed in “42nd Street” at North Shore Music Theatre. Tours include “A Chorus Line” and “Guys and Dolls.”
Steve Brady plays resort owner and Wallace & Davis’ former commanding officer, General Waverly. Brady returns to Gateway after playing Colonel Pickering in this summer’s production of “My Fair Lady.” Other experience includes Broadway’s “Inherit the Wind” and the national tour of “The Exonerated.”
Beth Glover is Martha Watson, a former Broadway star and the inn’s housekeeper and receptionist. Glover returns to Gateway after starring alongside Sally Struthers in this season’s “9 to 5.” She has been nominated for an Innovative Theatre Award and was voted Best Leading Actress in a Musical by The San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle. National tours include “All Shook Up,” “Promises, Promises,” “Anything Goes” and “The Taffetas.”
Alison Cordaro and Rebecca Goldfarb, both current Gateway Acting School students, share the role of Susan Waverly, the general’s granddaughter.
Scot Patrick Allan (Mike), Blake Armistead (Ezekiel), Michael Edward Baker (Sheldrake, Snoring Man), Elish Conlon, Nikki Della Penta (Rhoda), Laurie DiFilippo, Kim Dufrenoy (Mrs. Snoring Man), Alicia Hemann, Graham Keen, Matthew Kilgore (Dance Captain), Edward Lawrence, Janelle Neal (Rita), Jake Primmerman, Sean Quinn, Sara Michelle Reardon, Kelly Skidmore, Amy Van Norstrand and Chaz Wolcott complete the company.
Gateway’s holiday season concludes with a special New Year’s version of “The Rat Pack is Back,” [December 31 and January 1 at the Patchogue Theatre].
The Performing Arts Center of Suffolk County is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. It seeks to provide theatre of the highest caliber to the Long Island region and beyond, continuing the 63 year tradition established by theGateway Playhouse. It remains Long Island’s oldest professional theatre.