Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” Brings Classic Holiday Magic to DPAC!


Kerry Conte and Kelly Sheehan, White Christmas Touring Company
(Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

The 1954 classic Christmas movie “White Christmas” is one of my favorite movies to watch this time of year. It was a real treat to see the wonderful touring musical production open at DPAC this past Tuesday and I highly recommend fans of this holiday classic scoop up tickets before the show draws its final curtain in the Bull City this Sunday.

The theatrical version of the musical follows closely the original 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as two World War II vets that team up as singing duo after the war. In the film Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen play the Haynes sisters who have their own travelling act. The four entertainers come together through a series of hijinks and ultimately to try and save a Vermont inn owned by General Waverly, who lead the men on the battlefield during the war. Sadly, a heat wave has struck Vermont and the lack of snow has put a damper on the inn’s bottom line during the holidays and the bills are starting to stack up.

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White Christmas National Touring Company
(Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Working together the four come up with a plan to put on a holiday how to help out the general and save the inn just in time for Christmas! Of course along the way a romance begins to develop between each of the sisters and Wallace and Davis so you just know there will be a few bumps in the road in this holiday tale.

The four leads – Davis Elder (Bob Wallace), Jeremy Benton (Phil Davis), Kerry Conte (Betty Haynes), and Kelly Sheehan (Judy Haynes) all do a wonderful job filling the big shoes of these legendary actors. It was a delight to see them bring the classic Irving Berlin numbers to life on stage, from the title song and endearing rendition of “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” to Benton and Conte’s delivery of a spot on rendition of “Sisters” you will leave the theater humming these melodic numbers from Berlin.

The energetic cast puts a lot of energy into this performance and it shows. Sheehan in particular shines during the dance numbers as she is an absolutely fabulous tapper. Other standout performances include theater veteran Lorna Luft (daughter of the famous Julie Garland) with her funny portrayal of the inn’s concierge Martha as well as Conrad John Shuck as the stoic but warm former general and now owner of the inn.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel(Instagram @JeremyDanielPhoto)

White Christmas National Tour Company
(photo by Daniel)

The entire ensemble does a terrific job with vocals and the fancy footwork. There are several big “show stopper” numbers with the entire ensemble that dazzle the audience. One of the most memorable numbers of the evening is the addition of Berlin’s “I love a Piano” that is delivered with the entire chorus on stage performing an incredible tap number set to a red-black-and white backdrop that really brings the Broadway magic to the stage.

In fact, the set and costume design is wonderful throughout. There are lots of pastels and boldly colored backgrounds and seamless transitions from train stations to cozy Vermont barns that transport the audience in mere seconds. This show is true to the time period with sharp mid-century dress and dialogue that does not feel dated, but instead adds a level of class and authenticity to this classic story.

I really enjoyed this musical and think it is something both fans of the movie and newbies alike will enjoy. Happy Holidays!

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas has performances as DPAC though Sunday, December 8th. For more information and tickets visit

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“A Magical Cirque Christmas” Dazzles at DPAC!


A Magical Cirque Christmas
(photo by Lou Baldanza)

Last night my wife and I kicked off the holiday season in Durham delighted by the artistry and magic of the amazing “Magical Cirque Christmas” at DPAC. The Christmas themed Cirque performance was a 90-minute thrill ride filled with a fast paced mix of magic, music, illusions and acrobatics. Hosted by funny man and magician, John Archer, the audience at DPAC last night was treated to a night of jaw dropping performances set to hit Christmas songs with vocals performed live by the talented Therese Curatolo.

This show was created by the same producers of behind the Broadway hit show, “The Illusionists,” and is something the whole family will enjoy. It has all the makings of a fun new twist on holiday entertainment to make for a new family tradition. One moment you are listening to a beautiful Christmas song, the next you’re filled with adrenalin watching death-defying feats taking place before your eyes.


A Magical Cirque Christmas
(photo by Lou Baldanza)

Comprised of an international cast of performers the audience was first treated to the beautiful acrobatics of Sergei Kzakov and Anastasia Niukina as performed a graceful ballet of acrobatics from dual aerial straps and soared like angels high above the stage.  Next up was the heart stopping and nail biting balancing act of Oleksiy Mruz who proved without a doubt he is the master of balance and precision as he climbed higher and higher above the stage perched on ever moving metallic rollers showing he has mastered gravity.

The Christmas wonder continued with more dazzling performances with short interludes of magic from John Archer. Be warned, at the DPAC show some audience members were on stage and Mr. Archer is all too ready to make you a part of his act! I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out his fun magic tricks.


Therese Curatolo
(photo by Lou Baldanza)

Not to give too much away about the show, and all of the performers were amazing  with their own unique talents, but two of my favorites were Rachel Salzman’s grace and elegance on the “Cyr Wheel” and Yusaku Mochizuki’s Diablo Juggling. Both of these performances were beautiful and hypnotic and I could have watched them go on all night. But the entire cast is truly made up of world-class talent and I enjoyed every spellbinding act that took the stage last night.

Going into “A Magical Cirque Christmas” I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I found myself amazed at the amazing feats performed before my very eyes by artists who have no doubt spent the better part of their lives mastering their craft to share with others. I thought this production did a wonderful job of bringing wonderfully unique performers together and setting it to a Christmas theme that adds a bit holiday magic to an already out of this world show.

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My Top Holiday Picks ~ 2019

12. Irving Berlin's White Christmas

White Christmas at DPAC December 3-7th

There are always so many fun things to do around the Triangle during the holidays that I thought I would share a few of my top picks in the coming weeks. I am looking forward to kicking off the holiday season attending a couple of great shows at DPAC in early December including “A Magical Cirque Christmas” and the Irving Berlin classic “White Christmas“. There are several great events throughout the month of December to help you get into the Christmas spirit. In addition to those listed below I also recommend checking out the awesome Chinese Latern Festival at Koka Booth in Cary. It runs through January 12th and features larger-than-life holiday lanterns showcasing the beauty and artistry of Chinese Culture. Happy Holidays!

Here are my top Holiday Picks for 2019:

November 30th
Holiday Night Market at Transfer Food Hall
Shop local this holiday season and enjoy a night out at Transfer Co. Food Hall. Join Triangle Pop-Up for their curated selection of 50 local artists & makers, live jazz by Dontez Harris & grab your poem by the Poetry Fox! 5-10pm.

December 1st
Magical Cirque Christmas at DPAC
Experience the magic of Christmas with dazzling performers and breathtaking cirque artists from all corners of the world, accompanied by your favorite holiday music performed live. Get into the spirit of the season with this merry treat that’s perfect for the entire family. 

December 3rd – Sunday, December 7th
White Christmas at DPAC
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas tells the story of a song-and-dance team putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn and falling for a stunning sister act in the process. Full of dancing, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written! 

December 7th
Pictures with Santa Paws
Bring your pet and have their picture taken with Santa & Mrs. Paws at Jordan Lake Brewing Company December 7th from 1-4:30 PM. For a donation of just $10 you will receive a social media friendly digital print of you and your pet taken.

December 14th
Oakwood Candlelight Tour
Your annual opportunity to tour the interior of some of the 19th and early 20th century historic homes of Oakwood happens each December during the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour®. Homes are staffed with docents to enlighten you on the rich history of each property. Tour the properties at your own pace in any order.

Raleigh Flute Choir Holiday Concert
The Raleigh Flute Choir, a chamber ensemble of nine professional flutists from central North Carolina, ushers in the holiday season with a flourish as they perform creative arrangements of familiar favorites and alluring original works that reflect the beauty and joy of the season.

December 15th
Bulltown Strutters Holiday Throwdown
Durham’s own NOLA-style jazz band is thrilled to unleash, once again, their extensive supply of holiday cheer on the Best Big Little City anywhere!  Fun for the entire family! At Blue Note Grill in Durham 5-7pm.

December 21st 
Berlin Brothers Christmas Orchestra
Berlin Brothers are bringing their Christmas Orchestra (along with their lovely choir of Irvettes!) to The Blue Note Grill. This show always sells out so grab your tickets early!

Raleigh Ringers Concert
Come experience The Raleigh Ringers live in concert as they continue to dazzle concert audiences with unique interpretations of sacred, secular, and popular music, including famous rock ‘n’ roll tunes arranged just for handbells. Performances on Saturday & Sunday at Duke Energy Center in Raleigh.





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Places to Order Thanksgiving Day Pies around Raleigh – Durham – Cary


It’s time to order those Turkey Day Pies! Below are my top eight local picks for places to order delicious pies to share with family and friends around your Thanksgiving table. Make sure you order soon as many of these bakeries offer limited quantities and once they sell out they are gone! Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Union Special
2409 Crabtree Boulevard, Raleigh

East Durham Bake Shop
406 S Driver Street, Durham

La Farm Bakery
4248 NW Cary Parkway, Cary

2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham

Jack Tar
202 Corcoran Street , Durham

Boulted Bread
614 W. South Street, Raleigh
Pie Order Page:

Yellow Dog Bread
219 E Franklin Street, Raleigh
Call the Bakery: 984-232-0291

Monuts Donuts
1002 Ninth Street, Durham

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‘Top Chef’ Alum Katsuji Tanabe To Open High Horse in Raleigh This Sunday, November 17th


High Horse Dishes – Photo by Nancy Granados

Chef Katsuji Tanabe – the renowned chef who captured television audiences when he starred on Bravo TV’s hit competition series Top Chef BostonTop Chef Mexico and Top Chef Charleston, and whose restaurants have stretched from Los Angeles and Las Vegas, to Chicago and New York City – announces his new Raleigh, NC restaurant High Horse opening Sunday, November 17th. High Horse is located at 208 Wolfe Street in historic City Market in downtown Raleigh. It will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 5pm until 11pm (and until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, serving drinks and an abbreviated menu). In 2020, High Horse will open for Sunday brunch. Follow @HighHorseNC and @KatsujiTanabe. Reservations can be made on Resy.

Chef Katsuji Tanabe relocated to Raleigh to open High Horse – a restaurant to celebrate his “American Dream.” “The South has such a rich food culture and history; I really fell in love with it during Top Chef Charleston,” explained Tanabe. “I’ve found a home in the South where I can provide the best possible life for my family, and do what I love in a place that really cares about their food culture.” At High Horse, Tanabe brings his signature playful style and wildly unique combination of Mexican, Japanese and American flavors to life – influences from his childhood in Mexico City with parents of both Mexican and Japanese descent, two decades in restaurants in major cultural cities across the US, his experience competing on “Top Chef,” as well as his new home in the American South.


Chef Katsuji Tanabe – Photo by Nancy Granados

High Horse – a play on words – references the original stables which once occupied the City Market area, and serves as an invitation for diners to leave their pretentions behind and enjoy the “fun dining” experience for which Tanabe is so well known. “When you visit High Horse, we want to entertain you in every way – from the live fire in our open kitchen to the visually exciting cocktails and candy-filled cakes. Our entire menu is designed to share, and to be a really fun, engaging and affordable way for guests to dine together,” explained Tanabe, whose signature social media hashtag is, “#itookarisk.”

This festive restaurant and bar features two large wood-fired grills visible from the oval-shaped bar and dining room, in addition to an indoor private event space.


High Horse Cocktails Photo by Nancy Granados

Fans will discover variations of dishes from throughout Tanabe’s life and career – including his grandmother’s cornbread – also offered at his Chicago restaurant, Barrio. This close guarded family recipe also serves as Tanabe’s bread breaking with his new community; a percentage of sales from all cornbread sold will benefit downtown Raleigh’s pay-what-you-can café, A Place at the Table.

The majority of the menu offers dishes original to High Horse, which will be finished on the roaring wood-fired grills, including large format dishes like Spare Ribs in Tamarind Vinegar Sauce, charred Flat Iron Steak with burnt onion relish, and Skuna Bay Salmon with roasted peppers and chilies.

To complement, there is an adventurous selection of smaller and lighter dishes to share which have also been kissed by the flames and Tanabe’s global influences – charred Shishito Peppers with ponzuCauliflower with labneh, preserved lemon, burnt honey, chilies and mint, Oyster Mushrooms with black garlic confit and roasted Candy Cane Beets with marcona almond brittle, queso fresco and sherry vinaigrette.

Tanabe’s fondness for local Southern ingredients is as evident as his original take on them – as seen in the roasted Oysters with Country Ham Aioli and LimeNC Shrimp marinated in TogarashiOkra with Bottarga and NC Country Ham Tasting.

Like Tanabe’s bold cuisine, High Horse’s cocktails and desserts will also be instantly memorable. Vibrantly colored cocktails, including a keg Margarita, Cheerwine Old Fashioned and “Green Tea” ice shots draw inspiration from Tanabe’s heritage as well as his new found home in North Carolina.


Dessert! – Photo by Nancy Granados

Stay tuned! Soon, High Horse will introduce heated, outdoor dining and lounge seating as well. View High Horse menus at and reserve on

About Chef Katsuji Tanabe
Born and raised in a Jewish neighborhood in Mexico City to parents of both Mexican and Japanese heritage – captured the hearts of Americans at his restaurants across the US and through his appearances on national television. Now the Chef of Barrio in Chicago, Hussong’s Cantina at Mandaly Bay in Las Vegas, and High Horse in Raleigh, NC, Tanabe first made a name for himself in 2011 in Los Angeles, CA as the owner and chef of Mexikosher, the first authentic kosher, Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles, and the first of its kind in the United States.  In 2016, he charmed audiences on Bravo’s Top Chef Boston, followed by Top Chef Mexico and Top Chef Charleston. Prior, Tanabe appeared on The Travel Channel’s Chow Masters, had a winning appearance on Food Network’s Chopped, was a professional chef contender on NBC’s Food Fighters as well as a judge on Master Chef Mexico.

Tanabe is committed to being a voice for immigrants in the food and beverage industry, supports CORE (Children of Restaurant Employees) and the James Beard Foundation’s “No Waste” initiative.

From restaurants and events to national television, Katsuji Tanabe continues to deliver his flavorful and flamboyant style to diners and fans across the US.

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