Damien Atkins. Emily Tosh. Jenny McKillop. Paul Woida. Josh Languedoc. Katy Lovell. Luc Tellier. Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks. Karina Cox. John B. Lowe. Kate Ryan. Sean Sonego. Marco Deluca. Ken Stewart.
These musical theatres actors are alumni from St. Albert Children’s Theatre (SACT) and they appear on video to give the youth troupe a holiday boost.
Yes, theatre is back in St. Albert. The March lockdown due COVID-19 threatened to derail the troupe’s time-honoured winter musical. However, Janice Flower, artistic director of SACT, and her cohorts saved the musical storytelling.
This year’s production, titled 12 Days of Christmas, is a video recording available free from Dec. 12 to 23 on the Culture YouTube channel. Despite pandemic restrictions and an economic downturn, theatre fans of any income level can still whip up the holiday spirit in the comfort of their home.
“We were not able to do the traditional show. But the city kept asking about doing something different,” said Flower. “I came up with the idea of doing something for 12 days, maybe a couple of numbers every night. I had the germ of an idea, but I had to talk to the kids first. If they weren’t jazzed about the idea, I didn’t want to pull teeth.”
The SACT student actors were dying to sing out their lungs. Buoyed by their enthusiasm, Flower sent out emails to alumni asking if they would like to contribute.
“Before I knew it, it went completely out of control. Now it’s so much bigger than anyone could have anticipated and it’s great.”
In addition to the current 26 troupe members, 50-plus alumni rushed to offer their skills.
“This project is amazing. There is a real sense of accomplishment from the kids who participated. And there’s such a big buy-in from the alumni. Any other year and it wouldn’t have happened. But now everybody is sitting at home trying to fill the void. We’ve taken a bad situation and tried to make something hopeful and happy.”
12 Days of Christmas is a series of 12 episodes with five or six performances during the 30-minute broadcasts. And the kicker is each episode varies with blends of musical numbers, theatre readings, monologues and air ballet on silks.
“The creativity is astounding. People are coming together in unexpected ways. They’re bringing songs from afar and traditional tunes."
Among the songs is a special contribution from Oscar and Tony Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, two composers whose play A Christmas Story was performed by SACT in 2014.
“When I contacted them, they sent a video immediately of (Santa Is) Somewhere Hovering Over Indiana. I think people will be quite surprised.”
Flower also debuts a new composition sung by soprano Karina Cox.
“I was taking a songwriting class and Don’t Quit was an assignment. I read a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier and the words resonated especially now with the pandemic. It’s about the things that go wrong and the weird twists in life. But everything will work out in the end.”
Expect a variety of songs from My Simple Christmas Wish and Los Penguinos to What Could Be Better and My Grandmother’s Love Letters.
Videographer Justin Brunelle and sound technician Jon Lovell filmed local artists one-by-one at the Arden Theatre. Afterwards, Andrew Tudge, the theatre’s lighting tech, stitched the individual acts into an edited format while Dan Abrahamson and Jeff Moulton of Stream Stage in Toronto edited group scenes for Zoom.
“This is very much an in-home production. We’ve got great people and this is a way to reach the community. We’re still making art. We’re still working hard, and we’re still representing people.”
SACT has secured a Telus Optik TV stream. It airs a special-cut single episode on Dec. 22 and a repeat on Jan. 5 on channels 611 and 710.