Dec 2, 2008

Christmas Around the World: New Script, Music to enjoy

by Kerah Kemmerer

Two hundred and fifty choir members, upheld in the boughs of the towering twin Christmas trees, will raise their voices as one in this year’s traditional Virginia Christmas Spectacular held at Thomas Road Baptist Church. The nearly 40-year tradition will begin on Dec. 5. [I like this one]

“We began planning in February,” Executive Producer Charles Billingsley said. “Each year the production is a little bit different.”
In the past, productions included a range of story lines and variety shows, while this year the story is brand new, and the approach will incorporate a Broadway style.

“There’s going to be more drama and humor, so it’s going to be a blast,” Music Director Scott Bullman said. “The biggest standout about this year is that yes, it is an original piece, but the vision is beyond these four walls. We’re excited to see the Lord bless it even outside of our church.”

Billingsley and his team, which includes Director Lorie Marsh, Bullman, Technical Director Jon Daggett and Kathy Jordan, who is in charge of costumes, those who where developed the idea for the story line. The idea was sent to a scriptwriter in California who wrote the actual script. The original team later added the nativity scene.

“We had this idea of celebrating Christmas around the world,” Billingsley said. “ (The theme) is built around a delivery guy named Frank.”

Frank is played by newcomer Chris Breedlove, who is joined on his dream sequence journey by Mike, the “voice of reason,” played by Karl Lindevaldsen. Frank’s job at YUPS (Your United Postal Service) leads him to China, Scotland, Russia, Africa, New Orleans and Texas.

The actor, Breedlove moved to Lynchburg from North Carolina in August, and his wife convinced him to audition for the play with her in September. At the time he had no intention of performing simply because he was still attempting to get settled into his new home and job. Then he received an email which offered him the lead role.

“I am super-duper excited to be part of this show,” Breedlove said. “This story is something we can all relate to.”

The concept of peace is something that the planning team wanted to wrestle with in the production. Marsh said that people spend their whole lives searching for peace and even those who know Christ do not always embrace the peace that he provides. Since everyone needs peace in their lives, it is an issue that needed to be addressed in the story line.

The production is not a first for Marsh, who has directed other living Christmas tree productions. She and her family moved from Nashville, Tenn. this year, and she has spent much of her time preparing for the production.The music and dance in each scene is infused with flavors of the various cultures presented.

“All the songs are original or existing Christmas carols,” Marsh said. “We had several music arrangers contribute, and we went to Nashville and had a recording session.”

All the music will be performed live. This includes a string and a brass orchestra, as well as vocals and guitars. The recorded tracks will only provide instruments that were not available for the live performance.

One particular scene titled, “Yesu Klisto is Born,” was inspired by the Lion King, according to Marsh.

The scene will include a large elephant made from foam on a wood skeletal base. A grown man fits in each leg to make the creature walk. Two full sized zebras will also be included along with smaller props in the form of birds, gazelles and rams to mimic a scene from the Disney movie.

Over 600 cast and crew members will be part of the production this year. The show for Liberty students is Wednesday, Dec. 3 and is free with a student ID. The public performances run the weekends of Dec. 5 and 12. Tickets cost $10 each. For more information on specific showtimes please see or call 866-853-8543


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