Friday, August 12, 2022

Opera House gets ‘very merry’ this holiday season with multiple cabaret performances, musicals

“A Very Merry Mayfaire Christmas” will be a cabaret-style musical, opening at Mayfaire’s former Pier 1. (Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON — The holidays will be filled with song, as Opera House Theatre Company launches multiple performances in the coming month. It will kick off Friday night with “A Very Merry Mayfaire Christmas,” a cabaret-style performance opening in the old Pier 1 space at Mayfaire Town Center. 

Starring Broadway-caliber talent, including Brian Whitted on piano leading the helm, “Very Merry” contains more than 20 holiday tunes. The first act centers on the sacred, while the second enlightens with secular Christmas music.

“Ten songs are listed but there are also two medleys that cover about 12 songs,” Whitted explained.

Whitted will be joined by bassist Ryan Woodell and drummer Mitch Hebert, who will perform the first week before Benjamin Baldwin takes over in weeks two and three. Whitted will face off with his musical comrade Nygel Robinson, both of whom became known as “The Piano Men” last year. The two hosted sold-out cabaret performances at Thalian Hall’s portico and Blockade Runner.

“The original inspiration [for this year’s show] was the Nat King Cole Christmas album,” Whitted said.

Powerhouse vocalists and performers Jason Aycock, Bradley Barefoot and Beth Stovall, former Miss North Carolina 2014, will run down the soundtrack for the evening. 

“Audiences will be impressed by how much Christmas cheer we can fit into this performance,” Barefoot said.

Some choreography is included — “a light tap number,” according to Whitted. Though it really centers on classics most everyone will recognize.

“My favorite moment is hearing Beth Stovall sing ‘Christmas Time is Here,’” Robinson said. “My god that woman can sing, and it’s such a hauntingly beautiful song.”

“The First Noel,” “Mary Did You Know,” “Dona Nobis Pacem,” “Carol of the Bells,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “White Christmas,” and “Believe” (from “The Polar Express”) are among other numbers.

Another standout, Robinson said, is “Give Love On Christmas Day.” “It’s very simple. You don’t have to give material things that cost lots of money. You can simply give love and make someone’s day.” 

While “Very Merry” highlights the reverence and solemnity of the holiday season, it also taps into the joy and fun of it. For Barefoot, it shines brightest in the group’s rendition of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” 

“We are performing a snazzy quartet arrangement and it gives the cast a moment of light-heartedness to have a laugh and enjoy one another’s company,” he said.

Tickets to “A Very Merry Mayfaire Christmas” are $25 for general admission; VIP tables can also be reserved for $60 for two people, or tables of four for $120. The show takes place at 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Sundays, Nov. 26 through Dec. 12. The Pier 1 space has been transformed into a holiday spectacular, with set design by Terry Collins, sound by Chris Dean, lighting by Tim Tyson, and direction by Justin Smith. Smith is Opera House’s artistic director, who has been overseeing the launch of three more shows in the coming month.

Opera House’s youth company will be putting on the Charles Shultz classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” starting Saturday. The show follows the Peanuts gang, as they attempt to put on a Christmas play and along the way help Charlie Brown find the true meaning of the holiday.

Shows will be held at Mayfaire Town Center’s Santa’s Workshop (6835 Conservation Way). Performances take place Saturdays, Nov. 27, Dec. 4, and Dec. 11, at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m, and on Sundays, Nov. 28, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12, at 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” are $12; kids 6 and under are admitted free.

Every holiday season Opera House also hosts a cabaret fundraiser, “Hark the Herald Angels Swing,” directed by Ray Kennedy. 2021’s performance will take place at the Blockade Runner on Dec. 17 and 18 at 6:30 p.m. Numerous performers — Michelle Braxton, Cindy Colucci, Shannon Playl, Jason Aycock, Beth Stovall — sing through classics like “Winter Wonderland,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” Along with live music, diners enjoy a four-course meal. Tickets are $85; $40 is tax deductible. 

On Sunday, Dec. 19, another performance, “Holiday Cabaret,” will take place for those who can’t make the weekend’s dinner shows. It will take place at noon at Landfall Country Club, again served with a prix-fixe meal — same price and tax deductible.

Finally, the New Year will get loose — “Footloose,” that is — when Opera House hosts a New Year’s matinee. Based on the original screenplay and film starring Kevin Bacon, “Footloose” follows a group of kids in rural midwestern America, who abide by the strict covenants of the local church, which happens to include no dancing. When Ren McCormack rolls into town from Chicago, the rules get challenged as the teenagers push to have their first prom.

The Opera House musical will open Dec. 30 at 7:30 p.m. and will have a 2 p.m. matinee on Friday, Dec. 31. It will continue into the new year: Jan. 2 and Jan. 6-15, Thursday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets are $40.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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