Whether we like it or not the most wonderful time of the year is upon us which brings along with it a slew of holiday activities and nostalgic memories that are as plentiful as there are presents in Santa’s sleigh. This year Pioneer Theatre Company strives to help audiences create a few new memories of their own with an original production It Happened One Christmas which makes its holiday musical premiere Dec ember 4th through December 19th.
It Happened One Christmas is an original musical production that was conceived by Artistic Director Karen Azenberg and playwright Kenneth Jones whose play Alabama Story made its own premiere at PTC this past January. The musical is set in Salt Lake City in an abandoned downtown theatre and is centered on a legend that if Salt Lake City has snow on Christmas it’s because of the magic that happens in that theatre.
“I think Karen Azenberg really listened to the community and what they wanted in a Christmas show,” says Lenny Daniel who associate directs and choreographs. “Since there is not a lot out there she decided to give everyone exactly what they wanted and tailored a production to exactly what the community has been asking for.”
The production is comprised of traditional Christmas music with less traditional arrangements, musical theater and pop favorites, dance, and spoken word segments.
“This is a Christmas spectacular revue along the lines of Radio City Music Hall although we don’t have 36 Rockettes,” says Daniel. “It’s like those old television Christmas specials we grew up watching with the Osmond’s or Andy Williams. There is so much local talent in the show. They are just phenomenal and to watch them sing and dance brings a tear to the eye.”
The scenic design was done by resident scenic artist George Maxwell who most recently designed this year’s PTC presentation of Fiddler on the Roof and designed last year’s impressive set for Peter and the Starcatcher. Maxwell shares that they have been buying Christmas decorations since August and that glitter has been everywhere and that even the surliest painters who claim to hate glitter have enjoyed themselves.
“It’s going to appear like it’s a simple set but there is a whole lot that went into it. There are things that appear out of the floor and other surprises that we don’t want to give away,” says Maxwell. “It’s going to be a fun evening of entertainment. I think you will be wowed when you come and see it.”
The goal of the production team was to go out of their way to create a Christmas musical that was family friendly and most importantly something that could be enjoyed by all while staying true to the spirit of Christmas that has become a shared memory for many in the community.
“With Christmas it’s all a fantasy and in theatre you try to create this shared memory that allows the audience to believe what they see is what they experienced with their own families,” relates Maxwell. “We try to have this universal shared memory that the audience can draw from their own experience and childhood. We try to be nostalgic with what we are doing here and I think we will touch everyone’s hearts.”
While it can be intimidating to create an original Christmas production that appeals to a broad audience and stays true to the fond memories most people have about the Christmas season everyone involved in the creative process has worked diligently to create something that will resonate with everybody.
“As long as you stay truthful to the piece and you’re not trying to be cliché I think that it will ring true with the audience when you are true to the sincerity of the moment,” says Daniel. “We all have that joy in our heart and that’s our job as actors and dancers to bring that to the audience and I think they are going to just melt.”
Tickets for It Happened One Christmas are on sale online at www.pioneertheatre.org and at the PTC box office. U students can get tickets for as little as $5 during “Student Rush” which are available an hour before any performance.