Choosing a Christmas show for your community theatre company's season isn't always easy. There are the stalwart shows that everyone does, so you might want to avoid those just so there aren't dueling productions of the same show. But on the other hand, there are only so many so-called Christmas classics. And then there's the bugaboo inherent in the use of the word "community" as an adjective -- you're dealing with volunteers who have lives and, like everyone else, have their own Christmas stuff to deal with and/or live through. So scheduling is an issue too. Broken Arrow Community Playhouse has chosen to solve this annual riddle by choosing a family show and staying as far away from actual Christmas as possible.
"We knew we didn't want to go too close to Christmas, because it's always hard for the volunteers, and we wanted to have something kind of family-friendly," said director Teresa Bringle. "We did Oliver! in 1990, and we came across it and thought, 'Hey, let's do it again.'"
She actually returns to this production more than two decades after her first rendition of it with her creative team intact, as David Rickels returns as the show's choreographer, and Joyce Shank steps in as music director again.
"All three did this show last time," Bringle said. "So we really didn't have to talk too much. We sat down and discussed what we liked and what we wanted to change this time. That was one meeting. It was great to have everything known right up front."
One production meeting, by the way, is not a lot of production meetings, so the team didn't have to spend much time away from the actual cast and crew, allowing them to get started and get down to business.
Leading the cast is 11-year-old Jet Armstrong in the titular role. And yes, I realize that an 11-year-old boy just read the word "titular" in reference to himself. This is me sitting here hoping someone explains to him the non-breast-related nature of that word. But even if no one does, Bringle is pretty high on this boy.
"He's worked with American Theatre Company and some of the smaller theatre companies. He's a really nice kid," she said. "He's really talented."
And he leads what Bringle calls a mixed cast.
COURTESY/BA COMMUNITY PLAYHOUSE
"We have some brand new people, and we have some of our standbys. We have a really good mix of old and new talent," she said.
This BACP production also skews toward families for reasons beyond the family nature of the show itself. Bringle has cast actual family members, as well.
"We have a couple of families working in the show," she said. "We did that last time, and that was one of the things I wanted to repeat -- to cast as many families as possible. We've got a grandmother and granddaughter, a mother and son, things like that. There's only a few musicals where you can actually pull that off."
That's neat and everything, but the truth is that Bringle's reasons for doing so are more about pragmatism than about bringing generations together in a gap-spanning, feel-good show.
"The show is written so that the scenes that are with the adults and the scenes with the children are kind of back-to-back, so it's easier to coordinate rehearsals with the things in their lives," she said. "Kids do so much these days with ballet and soccer and cheerleading. But kids who audition for musicals usually are really dedicated, so I have that going for me."
Often, kids are the subject of at least one horror story any actor has, but Bringle does nothing but sing the praises of her young castlings.
"Actually, my kids pick up stuff very, very fast. And most of the kids have seen the movie musical, and so that helps them learn the songs really fast," she said. "In the stage musical, there's really not a lot of dialogue. And when there's a little more dialogue in the second act, it's mostly between the adults. I'm wearing the adults out, dancing them to death."
So BACP brings us a production where the kids dance circles around the adults, and that seems like it will be a lot of fun to watch.
runs November 30th - December 9th at the Broken Arrow Community Playhouse, 1800 S. Main. Tickets are available through the company's website at bacptheatre.com or by phone at 918-258-0077.
A few months ago, the former Barnard Elementary School -- then the home of the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences -- burned to the freaking ground. TSAS kids and faculty were shocked and, as an entity, homeless.
TSAS school director, Eric Doss, led as smooth a transition as possible to the school's temporary new digs at what used to be Sequoyah Elementary -- 3441 E. Archer St. -- but hey, everyone needs money to make things happen.
To that end, members of Tulsa's Celtic music and dance community present Celtic Rising for TSAS.
The event is a showcase featuring a variety of Celtic music and dance, and the whole shebang is a benefit for TSAS.
Held at the Tulsa Little Theatre -- 1511 S. Delaware Ave. -- Celtic Rising is a come-and-go function featuring a boatload of the music of the Emerald Isle on Friday, Nov. 30 from 6:30-10pm.
Among the performers will be the Tulsa Metro Pipe Band, the Tulsa Irish Ceili Dancers, a group from Broken Arrow, and the wildly popular sextet Cairde na Gael.
While admission is free, it is a fundraiser, so bring your checkbooks, because donations will be accepted. Perhaps it is more fitting, though, to say that donations are expected. Because come on, people, it's a fundraiser.
For more information about Celtic Rising for TSAS, event coordinator Tom Hinchey can be reached by phone at 918-455-3586.
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