It was a simple misunderstanding, the kind you could clear up with just one question.

Good thing nobody does, however, or you'd lose the entire sweet, song-and-dance plot of "White Christmas," which South Albany High School drama students are performing this week.

Shows are at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and again at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 20-23, at the Russell Tripp Performance Center at Linn-Benton Community College, 6500 Pacific Blvd. SW, Albany.

Admission is $10 for students and seniors or $12 general admission. Tickets are available at the door, but cast members recommend early purchase online via linnbenton.edu/tickets.

South Albany seniors Joseph Shetka and Nathan Corneliusen play Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, two soldiers who formed a song and dance duo after their Army service under Gen. Henry Waverly.

A chance meeting with singing sisters Betty and Judy Haynes (senior Meighan Van Veldhuizen and junior Emma Butler) sends all four to the Columbia Inn in Vermont, which is owned by Gen. Waverly (Christopher Vega Deleon). But business has been poor this year and the inn is on the brink of bankruptcy.

How to save the old man's business, get the girl(s) and fill the inn with holiday cheer? And how does Wallace convince the beautiful Betty he's really not the money-grubbing snake she mistakenly believes him to be?

Hey kids, how about we put on a show?

"It's great to be able to come in with your family and sit down and be happy for two hours, and know that all the conflicts are minor and easily resolved and everyone's happy in the end," said Benjamin Sell, who directs the show. "It's good for us, too."

"It's like, innocent, almost, versus all of the hard stuff we watch and hear about," Butler said.

The show features a cast of 37, three major dance numbers and multiple costume changes. Christy Anderson is the choreographer and Luce Ayers and Angeline Huntington are stage managers.

Sell said he gives particular thanks to his LBCC liaisons, Richard Elvin, the technical director, and Michael Winder, the production coordinator.

And yes, true to the name, "Christmas" will be white, thanks to a new "snow cradle" at the Russell Tripp Theater.

"First thing I asked," Van Veldhuizen said: "You can give me snow, right?"

Set a decade after World War II, the Irving Berlin musical is likely best known as the 1954 film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.

The four South Albany thespians in those roles said they were keenly aware of the big dancing shoes they'd need to fill.

"I watched (the movie) every year when I was a kid. It was the tradition for my family to watch it when we were decorating the tree," said Van Veldhuizen, who plays Clooney's character.

To make the character her own, Van Veldhuizen said she avoided the movie this year until just a few days ago, so she could put her own spin on the performance. 

Corneliusen took the opposite approach. Having seen the movie just once, he threw himself into studying Danny Kaye, trying to absorb the film star's goofy energy without simply doing an impersonation.

He said he believes the effort worked. "I feel it a lot when I'm playing off Bob Wallace over here. I genuinely feel that connection: That's who we are, and this was made for us." 

Shetka, as Wallace, said he agreed but has a different take on said connection. Phil Davis is an unrepentant skirt-chaser, so rather than a partner, "I wanted Bob to be more of an annoyed parent when Phil starts to go crazy," he said. 

Butler said she studied Judy's lines to see if she could find different interpretations. "Really, Judy is trying to scheme the whole time," she said. "She's trying to get her way the whole show." 

With winter break starting late this year — Friday, Dec. 21, is the last day for students — doing a classic Christmas play fit perfectly with the schedule, Sell said. 

"I love this script and I love every song," he said. "That's rare for a musical." 

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