Beloved seasonal show returns in person
As we struggle back to normalcy amid continuing pandemic restrictions, one hopeful sign is the return of live performances at Flat Rock Playhouse, and especially the comforting arrival of the Playhouse’s annual Christmas Show in late November, which last year had to be presented virtually.
“You will certainly recognize some Playhouse favorites in the cast this year from previous shows,” says Playhouse Artistic Associate Matthew Glover, who created and directed the first Christmas show in 2017 and has kept at it ever since. “We start rehearsals this month, but we only have a week’s rehearsal to put the show together.”
Despite its relative newness in the Playhouse canon, the Christmas show was so magnetic it had the resonance of instant tradition. Drawing on familiar seasonal music and themes that are tweaked each year to freshen the performances, a substantial cast of actors, the Flat Rock Chorus, and members of Pat Shepherd’s School of Dance in Hendersonville unite to give the show a festive, epic atmosphere. “The tradition continues because people can’t get enough of it,” Lisa K. Bryant says simply.
“I start looking forward to it in March,” continues Bryant, the company’s artistic director. “It’s the musical Christmas gift we can barely wait to give to the community.”
In fact, the first installment broke the box-office records for a seasonal performance at the Playhouse — which was founded in 1937 — and has continued to do so each year, even for last year’s streamed performance, which attracted viewers from as far away as Japan.
“For the virtual performance we brought the cast in and performed [without an audience] all over Hendersonville, so it was a much different show than usual,” Glover says. “We filmed for a week, and then it took about a month of editing before it was streamed.”
This year, the production will return with all the sensory trappings — theatrical snow, sleighs, mistletoe, and the expected special guest (i.e., Santa). “The show changes each year depending on who is in the cast,” Glover points out. “I try to create the show to showcase their talents, so the final product and song selections change every year. It actually isn’t a challenge because there’s so much Christmas music out there, but it’s a blast to take familiar tunes and rearrange them into something new.”
The action will end, though, on a note familiar to those who’ve been in previous audiences, as everyone — cast and showgoers — joins in singing “White Christmas” as snow gently drifts to the stage. “Whenever you come to the show,” Glover says, “you will leave with the same spirit of Christmas in your heart.”
A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas, 2661 Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock. The show will be presented Friday, Nov. 26 through Sunday, Dec. 19. Call the box office at 828-693-0731 or visit flatrockplayhouse.org for performance times, tickets, and requirements for admission (including wearing masks and providing proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 testing).