Holiday Arts to Warm Your Hearts

Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald

Here’s a sampling of the December events in Wilmington

Retelling a Family Classic With the Drama League Family

Wilmington Drama League’s (WDL’s) mainstage collaborates with its children’s theater arm, The Chrysalis Players, to celebrate the season in the timeless tale, A Christmas Carol (Broadway Version), Dec. 15-30.

Based on the Charles Dickens classic, this holiday staple is directed by regional theater maven Jeffrey Santoro—also artistic director of the Delaware All-State Theatre—with music direction by Jake Collins and assistant direction/choreography by Shauna Goodman. A Christmas Carol (Broadway Version) was originally presented in 1994 by Radio City Entertainment at Madison Square Garden, directed by Mike Ockrent and choreographed by Delaware native Susan Stroman.

The theater typically produces a family-themed show around this time of year, notes Kathy Buterbaugh, WDL production manager, often competing in the “buzz” of other local holiday-themed shows. “But it’s always a bit more special when we can connect the excitement and flavor of the season to our stage,” she admits.

When the folks at WDL realized no one was presenting A Christmas Carol locally this season, they jumped at the opportunity. And, Buterbaugh adds, “It takes an amazing team to produce something on this large a scale, and we’re blessed to have exactly that in Jeff, Shauna and Jake, whose combined talents can handle anything.”

To put things in perspective, the cast itself numbers over 50 actors, ranging in age from 7 to 70.
“We’ve assembled some of the best talent around to bring these engaging, robust characters to life,” notes Santoro. “In the uncertainty of today, it’s nice to present a heartwarming, family-friendly production. As Dickens said, ‘No one is useless in the world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.’ That’s a great lesson for all of us this Christmas season!”

A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a wealthy miser who places money above people or happiness. With his trademark “Bah! Humbug!” Scrooge looks down on all things related to celebrating Christmas—until one evening when he is visited by three ghosts who show him the value of kindness, love and family. The production features music by celebrated composer Alan Menken, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and book by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens. (Fun fact: Ahrens was a main writer and performer of the beloved ABC-TV series Schoolhouse Rock!)

What is Buterbaugh’s favorite aspect of this grand-scale production? “It’s a tie,” she says. “Journey versus destination. The people involved are amazing—together we sing, dance, build, paint, fall down, get up, share a collective experience. But it’s just as thrilling to share our product with audiences, especially in this season of giving. So, my favorite part? Sharing.”

Wilmington Drama League’s A Christmas Carol (Broadway Version) runs December 15, 16, 22, 28, 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sunday, Dec. 17; Saturday, Dec. 23, and Wednesday, Dec. 27, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors/students and $10 for children and can be purchased at wilmingtondramaleague.org.

Delaware Theatre Company’s Side-Splitting Ode to the Bard

Hold onto your codpieces, Wilmington, and get ready for some jolly holiday belly laughs. Delaware Theatre Company re-creates all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays with the madcap romp The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised], running now through Dec. 23.

Three men—in tights—in about 97 minutes, weave their way through parodies of The Bard’s collection of master works, including Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus, Othello, Hamlet and more. Actor 1 is played by John Zak; Actor 2 by Jeffrey C. Hawkins and Actor 3 by Josh Carpenter.

Director Steve Tague (who himself has portrayed Hamlet, Macbeth and Richard III) will undoubtedly put his own stamp on this beloved spoof. Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, the play premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1987 and has been the most performed stage parody for the last 20 years.

“The first show I attended at DTC [in 2007] was Steve Tague’s production of Complete Works,” recalls DTC Artistic Director Bud Martin. “I don’t remember laughing so hard at a show before. When I came to work at DTC…I was anxious to have Steve revive that wonderful production for us.” Martin notes that one of the entertaining characteristics of this piece is that it can change every day based on current events. Given today’s pop culture climate, it will likely be much different from the 2007 staging. Kendall Jenner as Juliet? I can’t wait…

Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased at DelawareTheatre.org or by calling 594.1100.

A Holiday Mash-Up of Two Musical Favorites

The Cartoon Christmas Trio performs with members of the Wilmington Children’s Chorus at The Queen. Photo courtesy of Rob Swanson

Two popular local ensembles join forces this season in a holiday and nostalgia-filled musical extravaganza. Bring the entire family to enjoy the Cartoon Christmas Trio accompanied by the Wilmington Children’s Chorus at the Delaware Art Museum on Sunday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m.

Since its inception in 1995 by bassist Rob Swanson, the trio’s focus has been classic soundtracks of holiday cartoon music, especially that of the beloved A Charlie Brown Christmas. The trio is Jimmy Coleman on drums, Jeff Knoettner on piano and Swanson on double bass. Recently, the trio has been adding the voices of children’s choirs to complete the original vision of the music from the Charlie Brown special.

“I believe it’s now the fourth year we’ve worked with the kids [from WCC],” says Swanson. “We’re very excited to collaborate again.”

Tickets are $10 and are available at delart.org. A cash bar and light fare will also be available for purchase.

A Stirring Holiday Story in Vivid Color

For more than 25 years, Christina Cultural Arts Center has partnered with Philadelphia’s renowned Eleone Dance Theatre to bring Wilmingtonians a dazzling blend of music, dance and spoken word with the distinctive holiday musical Carols in Color. Now, Carols returns for a one-night-only performance at The Grand Opera House Sunday, Dec. 10, at 4 p.m.

Carols in Color retells the story of the birth of Christ according to the Gospel of St. Matthew using contemporary music, exuberant dance and powerful narration. It was originally based on the piece Black Nativity by Langston Hughes and a 1960s musical adaptation by Vinette Carrol.

Carols was first produced in 1992 by Philadelphia-based director, choreographer and arranger Leon Evans and continues today under the artistic direction of Shawn-Lamere Williams with executive direction by Sheila A. Ward and the musical direction of Patrick Crawford.

Tickets are $25-35 plus fees for adults and $16 plus fees for students, and can be purchased at TicketsattheGrand.org or by calling 800.37.GRAND.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.