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April 23, 2014

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From left, Patrice Helms, Gary Carl Fackenthal and Caroline Kapo perform in ‘Christmas in Blowing Rock 4.’ The fifth installment of Ensemble Stage’s popular holiday show comes to Blowing Rock Dec. 13 to 15. Photo submitted



Originally published: 2013-12-13 08:36:10
Last modified: 2013-12-13 08:36:10

Ensemble Stage presents variety show

Frank Ruggiero

Dancing, crooning and a cannibalistic elf?

It must be “Christmas in Blowing Rock.”

Ensemble Stage’s ever-popular holiday variety show returns to Blowing Rock Dec. 13 to 15, bringing with it a seasonal smorgasbord of entertainment - singing, dancing, comedy and a twist to the tried and true formula.

Titled “(“The Best of) Christmas in Blowing Rock 5,” this year’s production promises a variety of audience favorites from the past four years, along with some new acts.

“We’re basically taking the songs and sketches that were the most popular over the last four years,” artistic director Gary Smith said. “Plus, we’ve added a few songs in there, because you can’t have a best of album without having a couple of bonus tracks.”

And there’s more. The upcoming production promises improved stage sets and lighting, elegant ball gowns, sophisticated tuxedos and stand-out choreography, Smith said.

“If people are expecting to see just a bunch of people standing in place, singing Christmas songs, they’re wrong,” he said. “Our choreographer (Stephanie Bengtson) has put together some really neat choreography; each song is its own mini-theater production.”

Between Bengtson and musical director Blake Pace, the production promises some varied takes on holiday favorites, Smith said, such as jazz singer Maureen Klinedinst performing a Rosemary Clooney-esque rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

One of the more popular comedy sketches involves Hannibal the Elf, a cannibalistic Christmas critter that must help Clarice the Reindeer find a kidnapped Santa Claus.

“There are over 30 songs, a couple of sketches and lots of dancing, and all this is done in slightly over an hour,” Smith said. “It’s very fast-paced, there are no gaps in between anything … and it’s going to be a good time.”

“Christmas in Blowing Rock” premiered in 2009 as Ensemble Stage’s second ever production.

“For years and years and years, (managing director) Lisa (Lamont) wanted to do a Christmas show,” Smith said. “She’s a great big fan of Christmas, it’s her favorite holiday, and she just remembered how much she enjoyed singing in front of the TV as a kid, watching the old Bing Crosby and Andy Williams variety shows. She just always wanted to do something like that.”

And it’s the type of show that doesn’t come around often.

“At first, when she told me you don’t see them around, I thought surely somebody does them,” Smith said. “But even over the course of five years, I haven’t found one. Most theaters will do ‘A Christmas Carol’ or other old standards for plays, but as far as having a true variety show, with women in beautiful ball gowns, guys dressed in tuxedoes, lots of dancing, silly little sketches? You don’t see them often.”

Theatergoers also don’t typically see professional actors performing alongside community members, another “Christmas in Blowing Rock” tradition. Each autumn, Ensemble hosts auditions for the Christmas revue, resulting in an eclectic mix of local and regional talent.

The results speak for themselves, Smith said, adding, “It’ll be a lot of fun.”

“(The Best of) Christmas in Blowing Rock 5” takes place Dec. 13 and 14 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 3 p.m., with all performances at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium, located on Sunset Drive in downtown Blowing Rock. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $8 for children 15 and younger. Reserved seating is available in advance by calling (828) 414-1844 or visiting http://www.ensemblestage.com. A limited number of tickets may also be available at the door (cash only).

 
For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.


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