Actor Brings 'White Christmas' To Life On Elmsford Stage!

Published: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 9:00 am By: Kevin Phelan Source: LoHud. com

“White Christmas” was part of Jeremy Benton’s holiday tradition decades before he took the stage in the role of Phil Davis in Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production of the musical. Danny Kaye immortalized the role in the film version, which finds two old Army buddies teaming up as a song-and-dance act before finding themselves snowed in at a Vermont lodge.

“‘White Christmas’ was always on during the holidays,” says Benton, who didn’t get into theater until someone tricked him into auditioning for “Brigadoon” when he was 16.

“My grandmother was a fan of all the old movies like ‘Singing In The Rain,’ ‘An American in Paris’ and ‘White Christmas,’ and Rosemary Clooney was one of her favorites, so I grew up watching it.”

“What I always remembered from the movie was Danny Kaye’s big dance sequence he had with Vera Ellen, “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing,’” he continues. “I always thought that was just the coolest song, just the idea of that song.”

He gets plenty of chances to reminisce: For close to 70 shows, Benton has been following in the tap-shoe-clad footsteps of Kaye, delighting audiences with energetic, dynamic song and dance numbers as Phil Davis.

The actor, who will be playing the role through the production’s Jan. 12 closing, agreed to answer a few questions about the musical and some of his favorite things about the holidays.

1. Were you a fan of the movie growing up?

Oh, definitely. I’m from a small town outside of Nashville, so I thought I’d invented tap-dancing and Broadway and that sort of stuff when I was 5. Once I discovered that Gene Kelly had beaten me to tap-dancing, I was sort of hooked on all the old movies. And “White Christmas” was definitely a big part of it.

2. Is it difficult doing almost 70 shows in just over two months?

A little trick that I do is to not look too far ahead, to stay in the moment. I try just go week by week because I’m also juggling a couple of other projects. The great thing about Westchester is that I’m in town, I’m in New York, I get to do a fabulous show at a fabulous theater, but on my days off I’m still able to work on other projects.

3. Has work affected your holidays?

What’s great about doing this show is that it kind of becomes a tradition. I’ve done it for several years — on and off — and on the holidays that I’m not doing the show, I kind of miss everybody. It’s natural at this point to see these people at Christmas time, doing the show with them. They become kind of your family. Your family away from your family at home.

I won’t be able to make it home to my niece and nephew for the actual Christmas holiday, so my family has become really good at having make-up holidays. We’ll have Christmas in mid-January. They’ll have a do-over, they call it.

4. What were