Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Li’l Friday: ‘Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,’ Christmas Unplugged, Wilmington parade

Randy Davis as Jacob Marley and Vanessa Welch as The Bogle in Big Dawg’s “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.” (Courtesy Big Dawg)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Li’l Friday is a weekly roundup of events in art, music, theater, comedy, pop-up markets and more. 

It’s wise to check in ahead of attending any one happening to ensure it’s scheduled as normal. Inclement weather and unforeseen circumstances may shift for organizers at the last minute.

READ MORE: Judy Collins, Neko Case, Little Feat, Kenny Wayne Shepherd to play UNCW in 2023

Steve Vernon as Scrooge in Big Dawg’s “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.” (Courtesy Big Dawg)

Thursday, Dec. 8

‘Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol’
Thalian Hall Ruth and Bucky Stein Theater, 310 Chestnut St. • Tickets: $34

A biannual production, “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,” will open Dec. 8 from Big Dawg Productions. The twist on the Dickens’ holiday classic has become somewhat of a tradition for the local theater company; this will be its fourth time staging it, though it’s the first in person since the pandemic. In 2020, the show was transformed into a radio drama

Randy Davis performs as Jacob Marley and Steve Vernon, Big Dawg executive director, takes on the miserly Scrooge. It’s their fifth time embracing the roles.

“Randy and I both step into these characters with an eye toward what has been happening in the world around us since the last time we did the show,” Vernon said, in regards to keeping the characters fresh. “The overall themes never change, but the sensibilities that we use to approach these characters reflect what we all are experiencing.”

The Christmas classic is told from the mind of Scrooge’s business partner, Marley, who’s dead at the onset of the tale. Marley has been condemned to eternity in hell and has a chance to free himself by redeeming Scrooge.

The idea that atonement is always possible is a timeless theme Vernon said keeps the story at the height of interest each holiday season. 

“You don’t have to be a fan of Christmas to appreciate the ideas of brotherhood, redemption and love,” he said.

Returning to the stage from 2020’s version of the show will be Fracaswell Hyman taking on multiple characters, including Bob Cratchit and the Angel of Death. Primarily, he is the record keeper, the one in charge of the afterlife — “almost like the manager of the DMV,” Vernon quipped.

Vanessa Welch returns as the Bogle — a hellish sidekick and ghost who guides Marley through the afterlife. 

A minimal, yet functional and streamlined set makes up various locations, created by Lee Lowrimore. Stephanie Scheu Aman designed the period costumes, which Vernon praises as “wonderfully spooky.”

Yet, the lighting — overseen by Jeff Loy — really drives the story, Vernon added. 

“We have a lot more we can do with lights than we’ve had in the past, now that we are presenting the show at Thalian Hall.”

The show runs Dec. 8 through Dec. 18; tickets, times and days can be accessed here.

‘A Very Merry Downtown Christmas’ — Music maestro Brian Whitted will lead a holiday revue on piano, backed by an orchestra, at the Brooklyn Arts Center. It will run for one weekend only, with four shows taking place Dec. 8 through Dec. 11. Produced by Opera House Theatre Company, for which Whitted is musical director, talented performers will rotate through each show, singing holiday classics and hymns. Tickets start at $80 for tables for two, but move up in price for tables for eight ; BAC’s balcony can be reserved for 50. Learn more about the show here — takes place at the Brooklyn Arts Center, 516 N. Fourth St.

All Is Bright — Poplar Grove Plantation (10200 Hwy. 17) is bringing in the carol of the bells through Dec. 30. All is Bright features the plantation grounds decked out in tens of thousands of lights and illuminated scenes with photo opportunities. The Manor House is also open. There will be fire-pits and marshmallow-roasting areas, with various food trucks featured every night, libations, wine and beer, and arts and craft vendors. Santa will be present Saturdays, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. As well, a letter-writing station will be set up to send well wishes to the military men and women serving far from home this holiday season. Tickets are available at or at the gate. The event takes place Dec. 8-10, 15-17, 21-23, and 28-30, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Funds raised help Poplar Grove continue its mission of “education, conservation and preservation.”

Tres Altman of the Paper Stars performing at 2021’s Christmas Unplugged at Bourgie Nights. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Friday, Dec. 9

Christmas Unplugged
Bourgie Nights, 123 Princess St. • $10 suggested donation

It’s the office Christmas party for area musicians on Dec. 9, and the community is welcome to join in on the celebration at Bourgie Nights, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. 

Featuring 14 area singer-songwriters and bands, the show consists of each act performing three songs — two holiday tracks and one original composition. This year the tinsel-strung concert, eggnog included, will welcome Sean Thomas Gerard, Justin Lacy, Haley Heath, Julia Rothenberger, Sheme Of Gold, Jason Andre, Mike Blair, Billy Heathen, Tres Altman, Mark Jackson, Cara and Jay, Tanner Lackey, Ahna Ell and Benjamin Lusk. 

Gerard, who puts the show together annually, will be debuting his new Christmas song, “When We Hit December,” recorded in late October and released the day after Thanksgiving. He created it with the help of his family, including toddler Jovie  — who played bells — and wife Heather on backup vocals (listen here).

“I’ve been working on a Christmas song for most of my adult life and have never been able to write something that didn’t feel forced,” Gerard said. Though in the fall, he was able to write and track it in mere weeks. It was an organic process.

“I think what made me want to record this particular song was that it sounded like it could be a song off of one of my records,” he said. 

Gerard has released two albums, including 2021’s “Finally Found Paradise,” full of music that crosses pop, folk and rock sounds.

“For me, this song feels warm, happy and inviting,” he said, eschewing the capitalist nature of the gift-giving season and leaning into family — through all its glory, the joy of laughter, the chaos of fighting. 

“I think about being at my grandma’s house when I hear Sinatra and Nat King Cole,” Gerard said, his two favorite holiday crooners. “Now that I’m a father, I get to relive those feelings I had as a kid through my daughter. It makes the holidays all the more special when I see the happiness they bring to her.”

When not listening to holiday classics, even from lesser-known indie bands — like his favorite, North Carolina’s The Rosebuds’ “Christmas Tree Island” — Gerard said he will gather his fam around the piano for a “truly cliché holiday pastime.”

At the Bourgie show, he will perform Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” on piano and reimagine on guitar “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney, in addition to playing his new holiday-inspired tune. 

Folk and punk rocker Jason Andre of The Midatlantic is returning to the party also, to perform his holiday original, “It’s Hard To Be a Pirate at Christmas.” He recorded it in his home studio last year as a followup to his kids’ album “Sea Songs for Little Pirates,” released in 2018.

“I had fun making myself giggle with clever little pirate lyrics and throwing in some hints at traditional tunes throughout,” he said. “I also really liked grabbing all kinds of sounds and instruments and creating a cacophony of Christmas cheer.”

Nostalgia, he said, is the biggest appeal to the seasonal sounds. The “magic” created by twinkling lights, family gatherings, crackling fires, eggnog and the changing of seasons provide a coziness he appreciates. 

Yet, Andre isn’t easily drawn to Christmas music on loop on popular radio stations — and definitely not those that begin airing them Nov. 1. 

“The first album I actually enjoyed was Sufjan Stevens’ collection, followed by Bad Religion’s Christmas album,” he said. “Dropkick Murphys have a really funny one that I put on my holiday playlist. Everyone seems to enjoy a different variety, but the short answer to a good holiday song [are these chords]: Dm7 flat 5 or Fm6 A flat. That’s the appeal.”

Though he hadn’t fully decided by press which songs he will play at Bourgie’s holiday soiree, he knows The Midatlantic will be joining him on stage — including Ben Sciance, Alan Upham, Annie Jewell, and Billy Heathen.

As well, Andre will jump in on other musicians’ sets throughout the evening, including Billy Heathen’s own solo project and Justin Lacy’s.

“I used to love the original Grinch by Dr. Seuss, but that has now evolved into Justin Lacy’s version being the official version,” he said. Lacy performs it — inflecting its animation and character — annually at the show. 

“Part of what I love about this night each year is the collaboration and ability for a bunch of musicians who don’t typically get to hang out together, getting to hang out,” Andre said. “There’s a lot of crossover collaboration and community amongst everyone. It’s sure to be a jolly ol’ time!”

The $10 suggested donation or an unwrapped toy at the door goes to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

Becca Semon’s Art Exhibit — CraftGrown Market on Castle Street is opening an art show Friday evening, featuring the mixed media work of Becca Semon, an abstract painter and photographer from Wilmington. “My art is a colorful web where texture and varied lines interact to keep the viewer in a playful atmosphere of exploration and imagination,” she said in a release. Semon’s show will start at 6 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 10

‘A Christmas Story’
Thalian Hall, 310 Chestnut St. • Tickets: $34

Based on the famed 1983 movie, “A Christmas Story: The Musical” will open Dec. 9 at Thalian Hall’s main stage. The show centers around Ralphie’s desire to receive a Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot BB gun for Christmas, to his parents’ dismay. 

Thalian Association for Community Theater last presented the show in 2017, bringing to life Jean Shepherd’s short story “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” — the basis for the movie script as well. The cast is full of adults and children bringing to life the zany antics the story has become revered for — Flick sticking his tongue to a flagpole, the Old Man winning a “special award,” and Ralphie donning a bunny costume on Christmas morning, to name a few. 

Tickets are $22 to $34; the show runs through Dec. 18, days and times can be found here.

‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ — Charles Shultz’s annual holiday classic featuring the Peanuts gang discovering the true meaning of Christmas will be brought to life at the Wilson Center (711 N. Third St.) by Cape Fear Community College’s theater department. The show takes place at 3 p.m. Dec. 10; tickets are $15 for adults and free for kids 12 and under, as well as CFCC students. CFCC faculty and staff receive discounted entry for $9.99.

Old Wilmington By Candlelight Tour — On Dec. 10, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Dec. 11, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Candlelight Walking Tour. The holiday event takes place in downtown Wilmington and features historic sites and houses of worship. The tours are self-guided, though each site has a docent who will share history of the structure. All stops are adorned for the holiday season. Tickets are $50.

13th Annual Ryan Lee Burris Memorial Toy Drive and Fundraiser — For more than a decade, the LGBTQ community has rallied for an annual toy drive and fundraiser, while also raising awareness for social justice. The fundraiser benefits Partners in Caring, an agency that assists Cape Fear residents affected by HIV and their families. Taking place at Ibiza Nightclub downtown (118 Market St.), 15 social service agencies have joined the cause, including Cape Fear LGBT Center, Coastal Horizons, NAACP, Soccer Outreach of Cape Fear, SAGE, Legal Aid, Novant Health, Domestic Violence Shelter and Services Inc., and others. They will have tables set up to promote awareness and there will be a raffle featuring 10 to 15 items. Raffle tickets are available at local businesses including Hi-Wire Brewing, Fermental, Flytrap, Tame the Mane: Reese Harlacker, Beauty and Bloom, The Second Glass, Marks of Distinction, Be Water Movement Studio, Veggie Wagon, Las Margaritas, Wilmington Wine. The event begins at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and lasts throughout the evening, with two drag shows, social justice speakers, and dancing. It’s a $10 suggested donation, and unwrapped toys are welcome as well; a fundraiser link is here.

Santacon 2022 — Prepare for Santas galore to take over downtown Wilmington. Santacon welcomes anyone to join for caroling and day-drinking, starting at Duck and Dive at 1 p.m. The event also is a toy drive for Toys for Tots and food drive for the Cape Fear Food Bank, so participants are encouraged to bring one unwrapped toy and a nonperishable food item to donate. 

Philip Gerard will be celebrated at Cameron Art Museum on Saturday, 4 p.m. (Courtesy Jill Gerard)

Philip Gerard Celebration of Life — One of the earliest champions of the founding of UNCW’s Creative Writing Department passed away in November, and now the community will celebrate his life at Cameron Art Museum from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Gerard’s 1995 publication of “Cape Fear Rising” is best known locally for being one of the seminal books bringing to light the impact of the 1898 massacre and coup. He published 16 books of fiction and creative nonfiction, two of which are textbooks used in universities across the nation. He also wrote poems and songs. Read his “In Memoriam” here, penned by his wife and fellow writer Jill,

Sleigh All Day Holiday Market — Taking place at the Hannah Block USO and Community Arts Center, a weekend market is slated for Dec. 10 and 11, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring one-of-a-kind handcrafted gifts from small businesses and artisans. More than 20 vendors will be set up in the center, with a free gift-wrapping station also open. There will be refreshments and holiday music. The event is hosted by the Pony Collective, a group of local female artists supporting artistic endeavors.

The Living Christmas Tree — From Dec. 10 through the 12, Pine Valley Baptist Church will host its living Christmas tree nightly beginning at 7 p.m. The 2022 theme is a look back from 1920s to present day, to see how Christmas has morphed through the decades. A tree comes to life with the church choir singing hymnals. It’s free to attend at 3940 Shipyard Blvd. 

Winterfest Flotilla Party — The River Hotel in Southport (706 E Moore St.) is opening its beach and river deck for others to enjoy Southport’s holiday boat parade. Bedazzled in lights, the flotilla will be seen as it parades marker 19. There will be music and dancing with MC Events and Entertainment. Blankets and beverages welcome. 

Signal Fire — Wilmington’s local reggae band is taking over the Palm Room (11 E Salisbury St.) stage at 10 p.m. Signal Fire blends reggae and rock, performing over 150 shows a year. They have shared stage time with SOJA, Stephen Marley, Morgan Heritage, UB40 and others. The show also features the high-energy electronic funk music from Medjool Datez and Virginia reggae act One Culture. A super jam seems to be imminent by the end of the night. Cover charge TBA.

Leland in Lights Movie in the Park — Leland in Lights is underway through Jan. 3, with Founder’s Park decorated with large motion displays and millions of lights. On Dec. 9, 16 and 17, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Leland Express will take passengers around Founders Park, while on Dec. 10 the “Polar Express” will be screened for free in the park after dusk. The park is located at 113 Town Hall Drive, and the event is free.

A Starry Night Holiday Concert — The Brooklyn Arts Museum Academy is hosting a holiday performance at St. James Episcopal Church. The show features students of all ages performing on violin, viola, cello, piano, and harp, in ensembles and as soloists. The event is free and open to the public; it takes place in the Parish Hall. 

The Starling December Market — Another holiday market is taking place at The Starling Whiskey Bar in the Cargo District from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be 23 vendors, including Carleigh Sion Art, Homebody Field Goods, I Like It Here Club, Broad Spectrums, and others. N. SEA. Oyster Co. will be serving oysters, and there will be live music from Paige Bacon, and Santa Claus will be on hand to take those wishlists for the big day. The Starling will have its winter cocktail menu available as well.

The greyhound club is always a highlight of the annual Wilmington Holiday Parade, which takes place Sunday around dusk. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Sunday, Dec. 11

Wilmington Holiday Parade
Front Street • Free

The annual City of Wilmington holiday parade will feature local leaders, businesses and organizations, floats, marching bands and clubs celebrating the merriment of the season.

The parade takes place along Front Street in downtown Wilmington at dusk. Parking is free on Sundays.

NC Symphony Holiday Pops — The Wilson Center (711 N. Third St.) welcomes the North Carolina Holiday Pops’ classical orchestra to perform on Dec. 11 for two shows, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Traditional carols and holiday classics will be performed during the two-hour concert.

Minnie Evans Birthday Celebration — The revered Wilmington artist will be celebrated at Cameron Art Museum (3201 S. 17th St.) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on her 130th birthday. The festivities include a 1 p.m. performance by Joyce Grear, titled “Miss Minnie.” Wilmington native Grear uses storytelling to infuse life into the stories of African American heroines. She has been researching Evans since Airlie Gardens dedicated Virginia Wright-Frierson’s Bottle House. At 2 p.m. local filmmaker Linda Royal will show a works-in-progress documentary she has been pursuing about Evans’ life. Evans, a self-taught artist who worked in oils, graphite, crayons, and wax, said she was inspired by the mythical visions and dreams that came to her. Royal has pored over archived conversations and correspondence regarding her artistic process, as well as interviewed Evans’ surviving family members, art collectors and local historians. Royal is raising funds to complete the film, projected for a 2024 release. There will be an ornament-making workshop from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Museum admission is $10-$12, and it’s a suggested $10 donation to view “Miss Minnie;”registration is required here.

An 18th Century Christmas — The Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site will demonstrate how American colonists celebrated Christmas from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. There will be costumed interpreters leading guided tours of St. Philips Anglican Church. As well, 18th- century inspired refreshments will be served and participants can enjoy traditional games and learn about holiday-themed crafts of the era. That evening at 5 p.m. will be a candlelit service in the ruins of St. Philips, followed by the firing of the Christmas gun. There is a $5 cash fee per vehicle for parking. 

Williston Alumni Community Choir Christmas Concert — The region’s historic Black school, Williston, is getting its alumni community choir together to celebrate songs of the season — “Let Heaven and Nature Sing,” “Angels from the Realms of Glory” and “Silent Night.” The show takes place at 4 p.m. at Union Missionary Baptist Church (2711 Princess Place Drive), and tickets are $15, available at the door.

Christmas Caroling with the Wilmington Choir Boys — If you want — in the voice of Buddy the Elf — to “spread Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear,” then head to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (16 N. 16th St.) at 5 p.m. The Wilmington Boys Choir will gather for an afternoon of caroling in the neighborhood and welcome all to join in the merriment.

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Shea Carver
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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