Sean Montgomery has been dreaming of “White Christmas” for over a decade, ever since the screen-to-stage musical adaptation first premiered in St. Louis.
It took a few tries, but Montgomery finally got his shot back in 2013 when he was cast as Bob Wallace, the character made famous by Bing Crosby in the classic 1954 film, for a production at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in New York. The role has stuck with him ever since.
Now on his third national tour of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” Montgomery is excited for the show’s final stop of the year in New Orleans (Dec. 19-24 at the Saenger Theatre), where the cast and crew will be spreading holiday cheer.
“It’s one of my favorite cities,” said Montgomery, talking by phone from Chicago where “White Christmas” ran earlier this month. “I was there with ‘Mary Poppins’ back in 2013, and the audiences are incredible.”
While Montgomery currently calls New York City home — he appeared on Broadway in last year’s “Groundhog Day” — the actor relishes the opportunity to join the “White Christmas” tour for the third consecutive year, alongside some longtime castmates and director Randy Skinner, who choreographed the show’s Broadway productions in 2008 and 2009.
“It’s a big Broadway show — lots of dancing, lots of singing, a huge set, huge costumes,” said Montgomery, describing Skinner’s staging of the holiday musical. “It’s not just a Christmas pageant by any stretch of the imagination.”
“White Christmas” is a little different than other holiday classics where angels get their wings or old misers get a glimpse of the future. This one is more of a Rat Pack-era Christmas story, featuring a couple of crooners, a pair of showgirls and the occasional stiff drink (“Hot buttered rum, light on the butter.”).
The story follows Bob and Phil (Montgomery and Jeremy Benton), two G.I.s who come home from the war and find success in show business. When they pair up with a sister act (Kerry Conte and Kelly Sheehan, as Betty and Judy Haynes) on the way to a holiday show at a Vermont inn, they discover the inn is being run by their old Army general, who’s struggling to make a go of civilian life. The quartet of performers put on a big show to drum up business at the inn, and along the way love blossoms and snow finally falls, fulfilling their hopes for a white Christmas.
“It’s a show about decency, camaraderie and friendship,” said Montgomery. “All the major bullet points from the film are going to be there, but we’ve added some characters and some other elements, so it’s everything you want and more.”
Montgomery said his favorite number to perform in the show is “Blue Skies,” the first act finale that features “a big dance section in the middle with incredible orchestrations.”
From the wings, Montgomery never tires of watching Benton and Sheehan in the second act opener “I Love a Piano,” an Irving Berlin tune that wasn’t in the film version of “White Christmas” (the song appeared in the film “Easter Parade,” performed by Judy Garland), but was added to the musical. Montgomery describes the song as an “8-minute tap number that just blows people away.”
When “White Christmas” wraps with a Christmas Eve matinee at the Saenger, Montgomery and many others from the show will go their separate ways to join friends and family for the holidays, but he admits they’ll be leaving another family behind.
“Now that a lot of us have been with the show for so many years, it does become like a tradition,” said Montgomery. “We are with our family in that way, our show family.”
“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”
WHEN: Dec. 19-24
WHERE: Saenger Theatre
1111 Canal St.
TICKETS: $30 and up
INFO: broadwayinneworleans.com or (800) 982-2787