By Richard Schultz, Dec. 4, 2014.

So much of what defines the holiday season for revelers is based on tradition. Yet each year, as fans revisit stage productions of The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol and TV networks showcase such cinematic classics as It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas, one might ask: Are these iconic holiday characters the real reason for the season?

Many local actors are presented with a daunting challenge when cast as one of these beloved characters. Imagine the courage it takes to whisk on stage as the legendary Mary Poppins or to amble about the footlights as that Yuletide curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge.

Echo asked local actors how they approach playing an iconic holiday character that is often so well known to audiences and, in some cases, already a part of their seasonal traditions.

White Christmas

Nathan Brian as Bob Wallace and Patrick Grave as Phil Davis

Based on the 1954 film starring Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace and Danny Kaye as Phil Davis, Arizona Broadway Theatre presents Irving Berlin’s musical spectacle that follows World War II veterans Wallace and Davis and their pursuit of romance while en route to the ultimate wintery holiday in Vermont.

Brian, who portrays Wallace, looked to popular films and music from the 1950s as the main source for inspiration including High Society and The Band Wagon.

“Bob's personality might be the closest I've ever played to myself. Both Bob and I love to be on stage, but are also both quite cynical,” he said. “The biggest difference between us is that Bob hates the cold and snow. As a Minnesota native, winter isn't winter if you don't get caught in a few blizzards.”

According to Grave, who plays Phil Davis, he’s incredibly humbled to play a role that Danny Kaye made so famous.

“But bringing yourself to a role is so important when dealing with an iconic [character],” he said. “People expect to see replicas of Danny Kaye, but you have to disregard that … I make it my own by not copying what Danny Kaye has done, but simply by bringing as much of my natural self to the role.”

White Christmas

Through Dec. 28

Arizona Broadway Theatre

7701 W. Paradise Lane, Peoria

Tickets: $63-$105; 623-776-8400

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Photo courtesy of The Dinah

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Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

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