Thursday, December 20, 2007

Favorite Holiday Musicals

With just five days left till Christmas, the signs of the holiday season are all around us. Christmas has always been my absolute favorite time of year—moreso this year because I feel like I have so many more blessings than usual. I have a wonderful husband, a good job, and great friends.

And for the first time since 1996, I’m involved in a holiday musical production.

I know most people probably don’t think of Beauty and the Beast as a “holiday” show, and usually, it’s not. But the Wilmington Drama League, where the show is being mounted, is advertising it as its yearly holiday musical extravaganza. And with just a few little touches here and there, it really has become a Christmas show.

As I was thinking about this today, I realized that there are a bunch of musicals that I associate with the holiday season, even though they may not technically be “Christmas” shows. For whatever reason, they remind me of Christmas. I’ve listed them below.

Beauty and the Beast. I’ll start with the show I’m involved with this year. Since it’s being billed as a Christmas production, the production team went out of their way to make the show look as festive as possible.

The biggest example of this is in our finale. After the climactic fight scene and the subsequent transformation of the Beast, all the stage lights come up and illuminate the entire castle set. As the former enchanted objects celebrate their newfound humanity, several young cast members set up a Christmas tree and begin decorating the set.

The finishing touch is a lovely holly garland that stretches the length of the stage and is lowered into place as Belle and the Prince return to the stage in their finale costumes. It’s an absolutely stunning effect that just adds a gorgeous holiday layer to an already magical finale.

Beyond that, there’s just a feeling of magic that a show like this brings to the cast, crew, and audience members. It feels absolutely electric onstage, and based on the comments I’ve received after the show, the audience feels it, too.

Because of this, Beauty and the Beast will always remind me of Christmas.

Rent/The Producers/Sweeney Todd. I’m lumping these three together because they’re all on the list for the same reason: The movie versions of these shows (which just so happen to be three of my favorites) were all released around the holidays.

It’s a tradition in my husband’s family to see a movie on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, after dinner. We love movie musicals, so if there’s one playing, chances are it’s the movie we’ll all want to see.

This year will be no exception...even though I'm seeing Sweeney Todd as soon as it opens, I have a feeling I'll want to see it again on Christmas Day.

I still remember going to see Rent in theatres in 2005. My husband and I caught the last show of the night, so it was after midnight before the film wrapped up. It had started to snow lightly while we were enjoying the movie, so when we exited the theatre, we were treated to a breathtaking nighttime view of our town lightly dusted with snow. It was the first snow of that season. I’ll never forget it.

The Sound of Music. The movie, not the stage show. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that “My Favorite Things” has somehow become a Christmas song, or whether there’s always a broadcast of the film on TV at this time of year, but I absolutely love watching this movie around the holidays.

It’s funny, because it’s not a holiday movie in the slightest, but it manages to evoke the same feelings of warmth and happiness that Christmas cookies and eggnog bring—which makes it the perfect complement to the holiday season.

Scrooge/A Christmas Carol. Okay, so unlike the others, this actually is a traditional holiday show. But it’s still one of my favorites. Who doesn’t love Charles Dickens’ classic story of redemption? For my money, it’s a great story that just gets better when it’s set to music.

Scrooge is probably the most well-known version of the show, but if you look around, you can probably find another musical version running in your area. I even saw a school production one time that just interspersed Christmas carols wherever they would fit into the story. For example, the chorus sang “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” just before the Ghost of Christmas Past arrived, and the partygoers at Fezziwig’s sang the traditional English carol “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” It was simple, yet effective.

Happy holidays to my fellow theatre-savvy readers! What musicals remind you of the holidays?


Jonathan said...

Does it have to be a full out musical? Because if not, then Charlie Brown Christmas, hands down. Whenever I hear Vince Guaraldi's sweet piano line intro to "O, Christmas Tree", that just IS Christmas to me :-)

Angela said...

Today's list was strictly musicals. But stay tuned...I'm planning to update soon with favorite holiday specials and movies. And yes, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is definitely on the list.