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Carol Swarbrick Says There's No Blues in White Christmas at TUTS

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Even if you're one of the people who saw White Christmas at the Hobby three years ago, actress Carol Swarbrick says you'll still see some new things if you come to the latest version courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars. With a new director and choreographer, she says the dance routines are not the same. Besides, there's new cast members.

Swarbrick, who plays Martha Watson, the "commander in chief" of the inn where everyone finds themselves post-World War II, says director Bruce Lumpkin has been helping her find different aspects of the character she's played before.

"It's such a wonderful story. Not sappy, not syrupy, with wonderful songs of Christmas," Swarbrick said. "And it's a magic ending, literally and figuratively."

Swarbrick's home base is Sequim, Washington, which she readily admits is an unlikely spot for any working actor's home base. She leaves there for her acting jobs and said TUTS and the Hobby Center are among her favorite destinations.

Swarbrick got started in theater in high school in Los Angeles, where she was the next to the tallest girl in her class. She loved to sing, and fortunately the school decided to do Once Upon a Mattress. "The leading lady is not your standard ingenue," she said. "I wasn't a cheerleader. I wasn't cute, but in that show I found a place."

From there she went to UCLA to major in theater arts. As a college sophomore, she was cast in a show that ended up going off Broadway, and she landed in New York. She describes herself as "really lucky," both in her career and in finding her husband of more than 11 years.

About a year and a half ago, she and her husband contracted with a playwright to develop a one-woman show for her in which she plays Lillian Carter, mother of President Jimmy Carter.

So far she's had some readings, and at one in Seattle, a great granddaughter of Lillian Carter's came up to her and told Swarbrick she should send a video of the performance to Jimmy Carter. "And I did," she said. "He wrote me a letter and invited me and my husband to Plains, Georgia." They went there in October and were there for Jimmy Carter's birthday.

Holiday times can lead to the blues for a lot of people as they try to do everything for everyone else and sometimes feel they're responsible for everyone else's happiness, Swarbrick noted. "This show gets people out of that," she promised. "There's fun and love and generosity of spirit." And the only people who have to save the day are the ones up on stage.

The Theatre Under the Stars production of White Christmas runs December 6-18 at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For ticket information, call 713-558-8887 or go to www.TUTS.com.

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