By Carol Vaughn —
The Christmas production at the North Street Playhouse in Onancock is a holiday tradition for many Eastern Shore residents.
And the show will go on, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The North Street Playhouse Christmas Spectacular will be presented to audiences online via showtix4u.com. See details at the end of this article to order tickets and for performance dates and times.
Now in its 34th year, the playhouse is popular with theatergoers of all ages. It typically has three different series offering 12 to 15 productions a season. Its offerings include plays, musical theater, and a summer camp for youth.
In 2016, the playhouse expanded its scope to hire professional actors for a summer musical production, “RENT,” and also invited local actors and young interns to work on the production. The interns shadowed and were understudies for the professional actors, resulting in a valuable learning experience.
The experiment was successful, resulting in similar productions of “Young Frankenstein” in 2017, “Kiss Me, Kate” in 2018, and “Dames at Sea” in 2019.
This year, North Street’s holiday show, like many events in 2020, will look a little bit different.
Unable to offer live performances because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the playhouse earlier this year launched NSP Digital to deliver performances to its audience via the internet.
The “Spectacular” is a holiday variety show, directed by Mary Stiegelbauer and featuring as hosts some familiar names to North Street theatergoers: Peej Mele, Cat Yudain, Jimmie Lee Brooks III, and Dwight L. Trice Jr.
The show also includes four special guests from past summer musical productions at North Street Playhouse: Jimmy Wencel, who was in “Spamalot;” Caitlin McKechney, who performed in “Kiss Me, Kate;” Mikaela Holmes, who was in “RENT;” and Timik Salinas, who was in “Young Frankenstein.”
North Street Playhouse artistic director Terry Bliss “emailed me back in September because Music Theatre International had released a statement that they were opening up some show licensing to digital platforms,” Stiegelbauer said.
Bliss asked her if she would help the playhouse produce a holiday show with some of the other professional actors who have been involved in past North Street Playhouse productions.
“After looking at the list and really thinking about the pros and cons to this weird theatre/film medium, I decided to reach out to Peej, Cat, Lee, and Dwight and get a feel for their thoughts on this as well,” Stiegelbauer said.
After holding a virtual meeting, the group decided to do a variety/cabaret-style holiday show.
“Terry and the NSP were enthusiastically on board and we were all so grateful to be provided work because COVID has decimated our industry,” she said.
They did rehearsals via Zoom, “which are just strange dealing with internet delay connections and flipped images. This becomes super challenging when I am choreographing and their feeds are coming in about two beats behind,” Stiegelbauer said.
Additionally, each actor has to make their movements opposite to what they see everyone on their screen doing, because of flipped images.
Brooks, who lives in Manteo, N.C., was director/ choreographer for the North Street productions “RENT” and “Young Frankenstein,” and was choreographer for “Kiss Me, Kate.” He also played the roles of Angel in “RENT” and Paul in “Kiss Me, Kate,” among others.
Mele, of New York City, will be remembered as playing Igor in the North Street Playhouse production of “Young Frankenstein” a few years ago, among other roles.
Trice, who is from Michigan and lives in Raleigh, N.C., wrote the lyrics for an original song, “What’s This,” featured in the holiday show as well as the trailer. The music was mixed by Derek Graham of Life By Design Media and Production, LLC.
Trice dances in Stiegelbauer’s company, draMAStic Dance Works. He performed in draMAStic productions of “Dracula” and “Foot Work & Footlights.”
This is Trice’s first North Street Playhouse show.
Yudain, also of New York City, appeared in “Young Frankenstein,” “RENT,” and “Dames at Sea” at the playhouse, among other roles.
Getting the show ready for primetime “involved a lot of Zoom calls, phone calls, texting, picture diagram texts for story boarding, and then trusting the actors to film everything on their own and send it to me — and then I put the puzzle pieces together,” Stiegelbauer said.
The holiday show is being filmed by the actors in their homes, then sent to Stiegelbauer for editing.
Without a stage crew, the actors themselves are responsible for everything from costumes and makeup to hairstyling and props, as well as for recording their part — all from their apartments.
“It’s been a bizarre but fun process,” Stiegelbauer said.
Performances of the Christmas Spectacular will be on www.showtix4u.com Friday through Sunday, December 10-12 and Friday through Sunday, December 17-19, all shows at 8 p.m.
Tickets are on sale at www.northstreetplayhouse.org/tickets for $15 for a single ticket or $25 for a group ticket.
Buy tickets online at www.showtix4u.com/event-details/42972 or go to http://northstreetplayhouse.org/nsp-digital and click on the Buy Tickets link.
Call North Street Playhouse at 757-787-2050.
A “teaser” trailer for the show can be viewed on The North Street Playhouse Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1593922974113588
Part of a rehearsal for the show, conducted via Zoom, can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/Northstreetplayhouse/videos/369835314464469