By Harley Nefe
Ensemble Stage’s traditional Christmas musical “A Banner Elk Christmas” returns to the theater on Friday, December 3 at 7 p.m. The show will be presented five times this month with additional dates on December 5 at 2 p.m., December 17 at 7 p.m., December 18 at 7 p.m. and December 19 at 2 p.m.
The musical variety show has been a High Country holiday tradition for the past 10 years. The show is around 70 minutes in length and features 27 musical numbers including all or parts of nearly 40 yuletide songs that will invigorate everyone’s holiday spirit.
“We follow the same format that we do every year,” said Gary Smith, the Artistic Director for Ensemble Stage. “It’s the format that we kind of base on the old Andy Williams and Bing Crosby holiday variety specials that used to be on TV in the 60s and 70s with lots of singing, lots of dancing, women in pretty dresses, guys in tuxedos, and lots of costume changes. It’s pretty fast-paced. There’s not a whole lot of filler in there. We’re doing a lot of songs that I think a lot of people don’t get a chance to hear that often, but they are wonderful songs.”
Smith further said that the show will include both traditional Christmas classics that everybody knows, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as newer Christmas hits.
“We have a host and then we have eight holiday carolers that support him, and we have duets and solos, songs with four people, songs with six people and songs with just the carolers. It’s a good mix of different people singing and really utilizing that stage,” Smith said.
The show contains a cast of all local performers including theater students and some Appalachian State professors. The host of the show, Mike Helms, is the Chairperson of App State’s Department of Theatre and Dance. Jana Greer, who has played an instrumental role in the Land of Oz at Beech Mountain, will also be in the show as well as Derek Gagnier, who will be in the performance for the ninth year.
“There are some new faces in there, too, who have never been in our shows before, so people will see some familiar faces and some new faces,” Smith said.
Tickets are $24 for adults and $12 for kids 16 and under. For tickets call 828-414-1844 or go to the Ensemble Stage website. The audience will be required to wear masks inside the Hahn Auditorium of the Banner Elk Cultural Arts Center.
Photos are from the 2017 performance of “A Banner Elk Christmas.”