Click the image to jump to local bounty!
Christmas Is for Children
In Chesapeake Countrys Pageants of Christmas, Children Warm Older Hearts with Faith, Hope and Charity
by Louis Llovio
Christmas is for children.
The holiday celebrates the birth of a boy, and we stage it for our children, enlisting Santa to deliver mountains of gifts.
We warm ourselves at the fire of childrens faith, aspire on their hopes and refill our hearts with their love.
Christmas, wrote Charles Dickens in the voice of Scrooges nephew in A Christmas Carol, the seasonal morality play that never grows old, is The only time I know of when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound by another journey.
Throughout the season, children take the stages of Chesapeake Country alongside seasoned actors, dancers and singers to open their elders shut-up hearts and remind us that there is magic in Christmas.
This Christmas as Tiny Tim in Dickens A Christmas Carol wishes us all a good night
as mice, marionettes, sugar plum queens and toy soldiers in The Nutcracker dance and dream of far-off lands
as choir singers in the holidays traditional music shows kids are warming hearts. Read on to find the pageant to brighten your season.
All Childrens Chorus of Annapolis
Curing the ills of the world with a community chorus of children
The Childrens Chorus of Annapolis.
Most performers ask you to come to them, but the All Childrens Chorus of Annapolis comes to you. Youll run into them most every place you go this holiday season.
The Childrens Chorus warms hearts from the State House, where the children sing by candlelight, to Kwanzaa services at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis and St. Philips Episcopal Church, to Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, where they join the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in Holiday Pops, singing an operatic Christmas and a carol sing-along.
Thats how it was envisioned.
Ive thought the way to cure the ills of the world is a community chorus of children who can sing to anyone, says Liz Barrett, founder of the All Childrens Chorus of Annapolis.
What better time than Christmas, the embodiment of Barretts dream, to make that happen?
The All Childrens Chorus brings together 45 kids representing 16 houses of worship and 21 area schools. The kids range in age from seven to 14. Admittance is open to any child who passes the audition and wants to touch hearts through music and community outreach. There are no yearly dues.
The Chorus lives the spirit of the holidays year round, and the youngsters, regardless of race creed or social standing, who take to the local stages bring the cheer of hope and faith this Christmas and any other time youd like.
Plus, you wont have to go far to find them. Chances are theyre right around the corner.
- Celebration in Lieu of Legislation 7-9pm Dec. 5 & 6 @ Maryland State House, Annapolis. Free: 410/974-3400.
- Holiday Jingles with the Governor 1pm Dec. 7 @ Maryland Governors Mansion, off Church Circle, Annapolis. free, but be prepared to wait in line: 410/263-9191.
- Annapolis Symphony Plays Holiday Pops 8pm Dec. 19 @ Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St., Annapolis. $33 w/discounts: 410/269-0907 www.annapolissymphony.org.
- Kwanzaa Celebration 1pm Dec. 27 @ St. Philips Episcopal Church, Bestgate Rd., Annapolis. free: 410/777-2457.
- Second Kwanzaa Celebration 9am and 11am Dec. 28 @ Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, 333 DuBois Rd., Annapolis. free: 410/777-2457.
Classical Ballets Nutcracker
The contagious magic of a world where dreams come true
| Zoe Black, back right, dreams of playing Clara in Abigail Francisco School of Classical Ballets The Nutcracker. Then she would dance with Herr Drosselmeyer, played her father Jim, at back.
This year, the role of Clara belongs to Emelia Brumbaugh, below.
The Nutcracker is the dream of Clara, who leads us on fantastic adventures with a dashing prince who in real life was only a toy.
Ten-year-old Zoe Black, of Rose Haven, dreams of Clara. This year, in Abigail Francisco School of Classical Ballets Nutcracker, Zoe is a gingersnap and a soldier. A dancer for five years, Zoe aspires to the lead. When Im Clara, she explains, Ill get to dance with my dad.
Each year Jim Black, Zoes father, dances the role of Herr Drosselmeyer, whose holiday ball sets the dream in motion.
This year, 13-year-old Emelia Brumbaughs dream has come true. As Clara, dancing with Herr Drosselmeyer and the nutcracker prince, Emelia shares the stage with movie stars, professional dancers and nearly four dozen dream-filled girls and boys.
For two of this Nutcrackers three performances, Sascha Radetsky, star of the dance movie Center Stage, dances the Cavalier; Miamis Maximum Dance Companys Stephanie Walz dances the Sugar Plum Fairy. Emelias dream is to one day join their league.
But now she is Clara, and she is all in this moment. When the lights go down, when the curtain parts and the dancers spin at Herr Drosselmeyers Christmas party, magic brightens the high school auditorium. But the magic is more than sugar plum fairies and nutcracker princes. Its the contagious magic of children confident that they dance in a world where hope is fulfilled and dreams indeed come true.
Its more than the auditorium full of parents who thrill as these dancers take the stage. Their hard work and hours of toil come together to make their own dreams come true. Its not a fairy tale. Its Christmas.
- Dec. 5-7 at 10am F (for school groups) 7:30pm Sa and 2pm Su @ Mary D. Harrison Cultural Arts Center, Northern High School, Chaneyville Rd., Owings. $20-25 w/discounts; rsvp: 301/855-0282.
Chesapeake Music Halls A Christmas Carol
Throughout the theater, hearts melt
I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me, wrote Charles Dickens of A Christmas Carol in 1843.
For more than 150 years, the story of the crotchety tightwad Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey of self-discovery has been told and retold from classical stage plays in the most elite theatres of London and New York to childrens movies starring the Muppets.
This holiday season, Victorian England meets Broadway in Annapolis as Chesapeake Music Hall performs A Christmas Carol set to music by Rodgers and Hammerstein. This might not have been what Dickens had in mind when he spoke of keeping the audience in good humor, but then he never watched a good Broadway musical.
Whether the version you are watching is an elaborate musical like Chesapeake Music Halls or a bare-bones reading, hearts are opened by the poor little boy, Tiny Tim. Scrooge and his journey with the ghosts and his ultimate redemption dominate the story, but Tiny Tim is the heart of this tale. The crippled young boy whos suffering Scrooge dismisses with a wave is the first to forgive and accept the new Scrooge.
|The ghost of Jacob Marley H. Alan Hoffman visits his old business partner Ebenezer Scrooge Tim King.
The Music Halls production of A Christmas Carol stars Scott Kincaid in the role of Tiny Tim. Sixth-grader Kincaid is a veteran of local theatre, having played in the Music Halls Oliver earlier this year as well as appearing in Odysseus, Hercules and Buried Treasure at the Greenbelt Arts Center.
Young Scotts innocent portrayal and heavenly voice rising to Rogers and Hammersteins notes as the frail boy is heartwarming to both the audience and Scrooge.
Tiny Tims mistreatment is the catalyst of Ebenezer Scrooges transformation. Dickens wrote it that way so as not to put the audience in bad humor.
- Doors open two hours before showtime; buffet starts 90 minutes before. Curtains part 8pm; 2:30pm Su; 1pm weekdays. Show dates Dec. 5-7, 9-10, 16, 18-21 @ Chesapeake Music Hall, 339 Buschs Frontage Rd., Annapolis. $35 FSa; $32 TuWThSu: 800/406-0306 www.chesapeakemusichall.com.
Ballet Theatre of Marylands Nutcracker
The children in Nutcracker make the magic
Fifteen-year-old Caroline Mayer has danced Nutcracker since the third grade.
I still get nervous every time I walk out there, says Mayer who has danced nearly every role in the timeless tale of a princess and magic lands.
No wonder shes nervous. The Ballet Theatre of Maryland is the only professional ballet company in Chesapeake Country. Dancers come to the theater from around the world. Nutcracker was designed by the companys founding director, Edward Stewart, who died a year ago, and this years performance continues his tradition of unique choreography and interpretation. Accompanying Ballet Theatres Nutcracker are two more standout musical companies, the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra and the 180-voice Annapolis Chorale
|Caroline Mayer, front, and 20 other children dance with professionals from around the world in The Ballet Theatre of Marylands Nutcracker.
Though a member of such prestigious company, Mayer is not sure if dancing is her lifelong dream. I dont know, giggled the sophomore at St. Marys High School.
This year, Mayer shares the stage with 20 other children, the cherubs and gingerbreads, dancing in the waltz and party scenes.
I just love the excitement and innocence of the children in Nutcracker. It brings all the magic of the holidays, and a lightness, into the production, says the Ballet Theatres new artistic director Dianna Cuatto. Cuatto first danced Nutcrcker as a small child in the party scene four decades ago and has since danced the roles of Clara, Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, Spanish and Rat Queen.
As well as adding magic to the holidays, the younger children of the cast are working their way up the ladder just as Mayer and Cuatto once did.
Seeing dancers like themselves elegantly costumed and sharing the stage with pros may inspire other girls or boys to follow in Mayers footsteps into the fairy tale and its Land of the Sweets.
Youngsters get the added inspiration of an up-close look at the performances on Saturday, December 20, or Sunday, December 21. Theyll not only meet the Sugar Plum Fairy and other members of the company but also have their toe shoes (or any other item) autographed, and have their pictures taken.
But for now, it is still Mayers turn to lose herself in the characters she has come to love over so many years.
- 8pm Dec. 13; 3pm Dec. 14 and Dec. 21; 11am and 3pm Dec. 20 @ Maryland Hall, 801 Chase St., Annapolis. $26-41; rsvp: 410/263-8289.
Colonial Players A Christmas Carol
An angelic voice and tamed-down ghosts
He has the look of an urchin but the voice of an angel, says Colonial Players A Christmas Carol director Christy Stouffer of 10-year-old Henry Pazaryna.
As the urchin Tiny Tim, the angel Henry is having fun. I like walking on stage on my crutches, he says of playing the role of the young crippled boy whose spirit sends Scrooge on his journey of discovery.
In the song Bless Us All, young Henry warms hearts with the youthful innocence of Dickens poor little boy by belting out Tiny Tims classic line God bless everyone to music.
In his third play, Henry, an aspiring marine biologist, is joined by his six-year-old sister Isabella.
|photo by R.A.R.E. Photographic
Bob Cratchit, played by Glenn Singer, and Tiny Tim, Henry Pazaryna, in Colonial Players A Christmas Carol.
I thought I could use her for a song or two, said Stouffer. But by the third rehearsal she knew every song. So now, I have her in nearly every scene.
I dont have a speaking part, says a disappointed Isabella, unaware of the impression shes made on her cast mates and director. I wish I did.
Being on stage at the Colonial Players A Christmas Carol is more nerve racking than usual for actors young and old. This Carol is performed in the round to bring the audience closer to the story. The two young actors are taking this full exposure with much aplomb. It is a little scary when I first walk out, says Henry matter of factly. But once I start singing, its okay.
The 53-year-old Colonial Players of Annapolis has staged its musical adaptation of the classic story for 21 straight years. With music by Annapolis musical legend Dick Gessner and book by Rick Wade, this is a lighter version of the ghost story, taming down the scenes with ghosts and the terrible future that awaits the dastardly Scrooge if he continues down his chosen path. Instead, they focus on the good that comes from Scrooges transformation. Its celebratory, says Stouffer. It is family oriented and age appropriate.
And with kids like Henry and Isabella on stage, the show captures the hope of a Dickens Christmas.
- This holiday tradition sells out quickly, and Sundays are already sold out. Two shows have been added to this years schedule. 8pm Dec. 4 and Dec. 11; 7pm & 9pm Dec. 5 and Dec. 12; 2pm, 4pm and 8pm Dec. 6 and Dec. 13; 2pm & 4pm Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 @ Colonial Players, 108 East St., Annapolis. $7 w/discounts: 410/268-7373 www.cplayers.com.
The Annapolis Chorale and Youth Chorus
Raising spirits with serious song
The 60 children of the Annapolis Youth Chorus, ranging from six to 18 years old, have a heavier job of lifting to raise our jaded worlds spirits this Christmas. Theyre raising their voices in songs by classical German composer Felix Mendelssohn and 20th century British composer John Rutter as well as traditional Christmas favorites. Even these arent run-of-the-mill Christmas carols.
They perform some challenging pieces, say Katherine Hilton. Music director Laurie Hayes really stresses musicianship and strives to find original arrangements of classical carols.
This means a lot of rehearsal time.
Before you feel too sorry for the kids, though, remember the honor of membership in the Chorus. Singers must audition and show that they have the wherewithal and range to share the stages of Chesapeake Country with the 100-plus voices of the full Chorale plus professionals from Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Theater of Maryland. These young singers are the future of the Annapolis Chorale.
The 30-year-old non-profit Chorale includes not only the singers but also such esteemed local musical groups as the Chamber Chorus and the Chamber Orchestra. Under the tutelage of music director J. Ernest Green for the last 18 years, the Chorale has become one of Marylands premier choral groups.
This year, five high school students are singing with the entire Annapolis Chorale as well as with the Youth Chorus.
Youll hear them in the holiday pageants A Celebration of Christmas, Messiah by Candlelight, Messiah and Carols for Families, and, in Baltimore, the Beans and Bread Soup Kitchen Benefit.
Nominated by their teachers under the Annapolis Chorale Scholarship Program, these young singers promise to attend every rehearsal and every performance for one year. While they rehearse, perform and travel with the Chorale year round, their dues and expenses are paid.
The Annapolis Youth Chorus.
I love this. Its the highlight of my boring Monday, says Jamie Strohecker of South River High School. After this year with the pros, she wants to attend a local college where she can study music and stay a part of the Chorale.
The fellowship of the singers helps the members of the Chorale, whether young or old, to feel the pull of Christmas early.
This is so fun, says an enthusiastic Amanda Chauza, Stroheckers classmate, who hopes to return next year. I get to try new music and be around all these people who make you feel welcome.
Their best time comes from performing.
We get to try new things with our voices, added Chauza. And to hear us all, 170 singers singing Christmas carols is awesome.
This time of year, they join the adults and help, along with the Youth Chorus, to spread faith, hope and love of Christmas throughout Chesapeake Country.
We get to touch people during Christmas, said Strohecker with the maturity of a seasoned veteran and the optimism of youth.
- The Full Chorale
- Messiah by Candlelight 8pm Dec. 19; 3pm Dec. 21 @ St. Annes Episcopal Church, Church Circle, Annapolis. $27 w/age discounts: 410/263-1906 www.annapolischorale.org.
- Chorale Sings Messiah for Families3pm Dec. 21 @ St. Annes Episcopal Church, Church Circle, Annapolis. $27 w/age discounts: 410/263-1906 www.annapolischorale.org.
- Chorale plus Childrens Chorus
- Annapolis Chorale Christmas Celebration 8pm Dec. 12 @ Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. $35; rsvp: 410/263-1906.
Music Artist Theatres A Christmas Carol
The magic is its authenticity
If his parents would let him skip school, hed spend all day at the theatre, says Musical Artists Theatres Michael Huelett of young Drew Armetta.
Armetta, a seventh grade honor student from Bel Aire, is in his second go-around as the loveable waif Tiny Tim. He just loves it, adds Huelett, this years writer and producer of Carol. He cant get enough of it.
As a lover of musical theatre, Armetta has found the right Carol. The Music Artists version is Hueletts original retelling of Dickens classic story interspersed with songs written for the show.
A main stage production at the Chesapeake Arts Center, it comes complete with elaborate sets, costuming and special effects as a large-scale show of Broadway proportions that brings to life the ghosts of Scrooges partner as well as of his past, present and future.
Tradition isnt sacrificed for showmanship.
The magic, says Huelett, is its authenticity. The stage looks like Victorian London circa 1840.
This show has played in several of Chesapeake Countrys theatres over the last decade as well as nationwide, including a short stint off-Broadway in 1992 on the 150-year anniversary of the publication of the book. Three years ago, it found a home at the Chesapeake Arts Center.
|Andrew Armetta as Tiny Tim and David Leisure as Bob Cratchit in a scene from Musical Artists Theatres A Christmas Carol.
Armetta, who has also played in the Artists musical version of Dracula, is a middle schooler who tackles the role of the poor crippled boy of Dickens childhood like a seasoned veteran.
He is a very serious young man, says Huelett.
Sister Erika is quite the actress, too. The fourth grader is performing in her second A Christmas Carol with the Artists, this time joining her real-life brother as Elizabeth Cratchit, Tiny Tims sister.
The kids still have to go to school, waiting until afternoons to take the Christmas stage. So Chesapeake Country audiences have to wait for the two young stars to finish their homework before filling us with holiday joy.
- Playing thru Dec. 7 at 8pm FSa, 3pm Su @ Chesapeake Center for Creative Arts, Brooklyn Park. $15 w/member discounts; rsvp: 410/636-6597 www.chesapeakearts.org.
Talent Machines Holiday Spectacular 2003
60 kids conspire in one grand Holiday Spectacular
Other companies showcase kids, but The Talent Machine Company is all kids. High school graduation is the end of the road at Talent Machine, where seven- to-18-year-olds stage three shows each year.
Each Christmas for 15 years, 60 youngsters have acted, danced and sung the stories of the season in one grand Holiday Spectacular that includes, of course, selections from A Christmas Carol and Nutcracker.
Talent Machine, which was created by the late Bobbi Smith in 1987, begins putting together the extravaganza as early as September, needing every minute to choreograph and train the young actors for the fast-paced show. So the company depends on its veterans to pull the elaborate performance together.
This years show boasts six seniors in their final go-around with Talent Machine. Spaulding High School senior Karley Willocks has been appearing in the Spectacular since she was eight years old. Annapolis High School senior Nikki Finkle is in her 12th year.
Now directed by Smiths daughter Lea Capps, the two-hour show combines traditional and contemporary Christmas songs with tap-dancing Santas, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Santas elves and a boys room coming to life complete with tap dancing toy soldiers and dancing bears. Dr. Seuss Grinch also pays a holiday visit to the show where even Santas a kid. Through all the singing and dancing, through the swing sound of Boogie Woogie Santa and a hip hop number, the kids of Talent Machine put the show on with one simple goal: to convey the joyful spirit of Christmas through song and dance to a packed auditorium of smiling faces tapping their feet along to the beat.
|Toy soldiers come to life in a little boys dream. Talent Machines Ross Koenig, Beth Lepley and Jordan Klein.
This Holiday Spectacular regularly sells out the 550-seat Francis Scott Key Auditorium at St. Johns College in Annapolis.
- Playing Dec. 19-23 at7:30pm Th-Sa; 2pm Su @ Francis Scott Key Auditorium, St. Johns College, Annapolis. $10; $6/kids 5 & under: 410/956-0512 www.talentmachine.com.
Pasadena Theatre Co.s A Christmas Carol
A family affair
The Pasadena Theatre Company has taken the idea of family togetherness over the holidays to a whole new level.
With five families represented by more than one actor, the cast of A Christmas Carol is a veritable family reunion in Victorian costumes. Three sets of parents and children, one set of siblings and a husband-and-wife combination make up this casts families.
The Simonaires of Pasadena alone have five performers on stage at any one time, including four-year-old Andrew as Tiny Tim. If you decide to count the bun in moms oven, then they actually have six.
This is really a family affair, says Sharon Steele, sounding more like an accountant than a producer as she explains the many combinations.
Shes not exaggerating. The Delaneys of Arnold get in the car, drive to the theatre, get into costume and transform into three-fifths of the Cratchit family.
|Pasadena Theatre Companys Cratchit family.
Knowing that this Carol is a true family effort makes the magic on stage all the more believeable. As you share the joys of a night out on the town with your family, these families are sharing their Christmas joy in Victorian London.
This is the first year Pasadena Theatre Company performs A Christmas Carol, choosing it over their standard fare Its A Wonderful Life. Written and directed by artistic director Chuck Dick, the show is adapted from the original text, bringing the story close to Dickens intention. Dick has the added duty of playing Scrooge, though he is not related to anyone else in the cast.
The audience is part of this family, too. Before and after the show, the company invites you to join in singing Christmas carols then to a post-show reception where the actors, still in costume, serve warm cider and cookies.
Families, of course, are welcome.
- Two locations: 8pm FSa and 3pm Su Nov. 29-Dec. 7 @ Anne Arundel Community College Humanities Recital Hall, Arnold. 8pm FSa and 3pm Su Dec. 12-14 @ Historic Savage Community Hall, Savage. $12 w/member discounts; rsvp: 410/975-0200 www.pasadenatheatrecompany.com.
to the top