Interview: Cliff Bemis - Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Theatre Talk Boston recently chatted with Cliff Bemis who currently stars in the national tour of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Read about his experience traveling the country with this holiday classic!
Theatre Talk Boston: This is one of those classic films that everyone has seen at some point in their life. Did you grow up with the movie?
Cliff: I did–in fact, we would watch it every year. I talk to so many people and this movie really has a special place in their hearts and means so much to them. That is why I love performing in it year after year, it is such a special little show.
TTB: Now I know you originated the role when it first came to Broadway–what is it like revisiting the show every holiday season?
Cliff: It is like coming home. I head into rehearsals and it all comes right back to me–that is why I love returning to it all the time. I starred in the original world premiere of this show back when we first did it, so to be able to continue to bring it audiences across the nation is always so thrilling to me. Have you ever seen it?
TTB: I have in fact! I caught the national tour once in Miami and then a smaller regional theatre production of it but it has been a few years–so I am excited to see it once you all get to town.
Cliff: I did the tour last year, and we were down in Miami at the Arsht Center. We had the fabulous Karen Ziemba, but now of course as you know Lorna Luft is with us.
TTB: Of course–she is such an icon!
Cliff: I just love her to death. We did the tour a few years back. She actually started with the show when they brought it over to London back in... oh, it must be 2012 at this point. I usually take a car into work with her everyday and she is just filled with the most amazing stories–and she just, in fact, got her Pink Ladies jacket back from when she was in "Grease 2". It is an absolute pleasure to share the stage with her everyday.
TTB: What do you hope audience to take away from this story when they come–why is this such a classic?
Cliff: I think it really starts with the song. "White Christmas" is the most recorded song on earth–there have been so many covers and renditions of it. The story is so warm and heartfelt and we literally make it snow onstage! The dancing too, we have one of the most hardworking ensembles I have ever seen. We have a giant tap number at the top of Act II and the applause every single night is just incredible.
TTB: Do you have a favorite Irving Berlin song?
Cliff: I mean, he is responsible for almost all of the American Songbook. It is like choosing your favorite Beatles song. I do love “What’ll I Do.” And I do love every song in our show. I can’t wait to share it all with Boston!
This interview was edited and condensed.
"Irving Berlin's White Christmas" plays the Boch Center Wang Theatre from Dec. 17 - 29. Tickets and more info: www.bochcenter.org
Interview conducted by Kobi Kassal for Theatre Talk Boston