Never mind the little matter of what will happen to Lincoln a few months after that Christmas. In the play, the prospect of peace hovers in the air.

"I do believe hope is the greatest civic virtue, and I think there is a lot of hope in this play," Vogel says. "It is uplifting and it is for families. I felt if we could find hope in the last Christmas of the Civil War, there is no reason we can't be hopeful in 2013 or 2014."

"A Civil War Christmas," currently in previews, opens Tuesday and runs through Dec. 22 at Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St. Tickets are $19 to $59. Call 410-332-0033, or go to

'White Christmas'

Things don't get much more Christmas-y than "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" — either the 1954 movie starring Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, or the adaptation fashioned about a decade ago by David Ives and Paul Blake that made its way to Broadway in 2008.

The national touring production of the stage version heads to the Hippodrome next month, bringing with it a hearty dose of feel-good medicine.

"This show is a throwback, a big nostalgia piece," says director Norb Joerder. "It's a time machine taking you to a much more innocent place. It's not the deepest story in the world, but there is such wonderful music and choreography that it all holds together. The critics don't love it, but audiences do. They enjoy it for what it is — a great big old musical."

The plot involves a couple of World War II soldiers who entertain the troops and stay in show business after returning to civilian life, eventually bringing a pair of talented sisters into their act. Romances bloom, falter, bloom again in the process.

They end up at a financially iffy Vermont inn run by the buddies' old commanding officer and put on a show to help boost business. All they need is for some snow to fall on Christmas Eve.

"This show has musical numbers just like the ones I remember from early 1960s TV shows like the 'Perry Como Show' and the 'Ed Sullivan Show,' which was my first exposure to musicals growing up in the Midwest," Joerder says.

Speaking of the Midwest, the 2013 tour of "White Christmas" has been playing there since the beginning of the month. Stops in Arkansas and Wisconsin are on the schedule before Maryland.

"The Midwest is our target audience in many ways," says actress Ruth Williamson, "but we got a great response last year at the Kennedy Center, and that's a very sophisticated crowd."

The Baltimore-born Williamson was a standout in that 2012 Washington visit, bringing terrific flair to the role of Martha, the inn manager who knows a thing or two about show biz.

"I really was not all that into the movie," she says. "I'm not a big Bing Crosby fan. I would rather watch 'It's a Wonderful Life.' But I have done the show for eight years now, including on Broadway."

Her role is based on the one played by the great Mary Wickes in the film.

"It was a smaller part and had no songs," Williamson says. "In this version, she's a former Broadway star who, for some reason, is running an inn up in Vermont with a general. I'm kind of the love interest for the general, too."

Williamson got her first big taste of the stage as a 16-year-old at what was then Milford Mill Senior High and went on to study theater at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. After a stint in the subscription department of the Morris Mechanic Theatre, she headed to New York with dreams of a career and landed her first acting job even before moving her stuff up from Baltimore.

She has not performed in Baltimore since a 1986 production of the Marvin Hamlisch musical "Smile" at the Mechanic, and she's looking forward to playing her hometown again in "White Christmas."

"There are a lot more songs than in the movie, a lot more great big dance numbers, certainly a lot more tap dancing," Williamson says. "And the show does put you in the Christmas spirit. It's about giving back to people we love, about generosity of spirit and all that stuff. It's so refreshing to return to a much simpler time. It's a respite from the cynical world we live in."

"Irving Berlin's White Christmas" runs Dec. 3 to 8 at the Hippodrome, 12 N. Eutaw St. Tickets are $30.25 to $100.25. Call 410-547-7328 or go to