Holiday musical set to warm hearts at revamped Imperial Theatre

From left, Karissa Kern, Dana Parco, Zoey Ryan, Noah Leonard and Troy Zimmer present hits from the movie Elf in Theatre Sarnia’s A Broadway Christmas. Photo courtesy, Emily Nutson

Cathy Dobson

Director Holly Wenning says Sarnia is ready for the beauty and feel-good warmth of a good holiday musical.

“It’s a very heartwarming show,” she said of A Broadway Christmas, opening Dec. 9 for a three-day run at the newly renovated Imperial Theatre.

“You’ll cry a little and laugh a lot.”

The show came together after COVID 19 restrictions were eased on indoor gatherings in September. But Wenning, musical director Frank Brennan, and co-choreographer Jackie Burns had to act quickly.

At least 60 singers and dancers answered a call for video auditions and only 22 were selected – fewer than usual – to meet the pandemic rules of the time.

All are over the age of 12 because the performers must be double-vaxxed. Theatregoers must be as well.

“People have really looked forward to getting back to theatre,” said Wenning, noting A Broadway Christmas is the first Theatre Sarnia show with a live band since the Imperial reopened.

“The band is great, our singers’ vocals have so much harmony, and the dancers are really incredible,” she said. “Our whole cast is the cream of the crop.”

She preferred not to name specific performers for fear of leaving someone out, but identified some of the 15 songs.

Seasonal favourites like White Christmas are mingled with lesser known tunes such as Twelve Days Prior to Christmas from Nuncrackers, Merry Almost Christmas, and a couple of songs from the movie Elf. Some are less about Christmas and more about good vibes such as My Favourite Things, from The Sound of Music.

As well as directing and helping choreograph, Wenning loosely connected the song and dance performances by writing a story line.

It’s like a mini-musical with a series of vignettes, she explained. “Some of it is still evolving but I like what I see and what I hear.”

A Broadway Christmas, produced by Paul Richardson, is a visual treat, she said.

“I want every scene to be a beautiful vision and am excited about the costumes that Lynn Elenor and her team have put together.

“Our stage will be magical.”

A Broadway Christmas is opening just a month after the Imperial Theatre underwent extensive renovations. Patrons will find new plush seating, a new PA, new accessible washrooms and a fresh coat of paint, improvements made while the theatre went dark during the pandemic.

General manager Brian Austin Jr. said all public spaces have been refurbished with eco-friendly fixtures. The carpet is new; the upstairs windows are new. Even the roof is new.

“We’re so excited to be focusing once again on producing shows in a fully functioning theatre,” he said.

“If feels so good.”

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Theatre Sarnia presents A Broadway Christmas, showcasing Broadway, movie hits and old classics.

WHEN: Friday, Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Dec. 11 and Sunday, Dec. 12 at 2 p.m.

WHERE: The Imperial Theatre, 168 Christina St. N.

TICKETS: $25, at imperialtheatre.net. Note: patrons must show proof of double-vaccination and wear masks.