Theatre department switches things up for ninth Christmas variety show

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The SVSU theatre department mixed things up for its ninth annual Christmas show.

Hosted in the Malcolm Field Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on both Nov. 29 and 30, the show was titled ‘Tis the Season: A Christmas Variety Show!’

Co-director and theatre professor David Rzeszutek and other cast members described how the show was different from past years when they were interviewed before the show.

“In the past, we styled the shows in the format of a 1940s radio show,” Rzeszutek said. “This year, we have styled the show paying homage to the variety shows of the 1960s and 1970s.”

Many of the student performers enjoyed the change of pace, including theatre and communications major Joshua Lloyd. This was his second year performing in a Christmas show at SVSU.

“We dive head-first into an assortment of skits, performance pieces and your favorite holiday medleys sung by our very own Cardinal Singers, accompanied by Kevin Cole, an award-winning concert performer,” Lloyd said. “There’s also a very special appearance by a furry blue monster who loves eating cookies.”

Rzeszutek and his co-director, fellow theatre professor Ric Roberts, had about two weeks to prepare for the show.

“The first ensemble rehearsals for the show begin on Sunday, [Nov. 26],” Rzeszutek said. “We rehearsed again on Monday and Tuesday and were in front of an audience on Wednesday and Thursday night.”

The tight time frame was a challenge but still exciting for the performers, including Abigail Burgess, a theatre and rhetoric and professional writing sophomore. This was her second SVSU Christmas show performance.

“Even though we do a Christmas show of some sort every year, we always have an accelerated rehearsal process,” Burgess said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our department to come together and assemble a great showcase of our many talents as a team over the course of three days.”

Lloyd noted that those involved in the show also practiced outside of rehearsals.

“Many students and faculty members have also put in countless hours outside of scheduled rehearsal times to ensure a seamless production,” he said.

The performers’ hard work paid off handsomely come performance time. It began with a solo by SVSU Guest Visiting Artist in Musical Theatre Kevin Cole. He played “Sleigh Ride” on the piano and was joined by the Cardinal Singers for “We Need a Little Christmas.”

Next, dressed in ‘70s attire, several theatre students performed a choreographed skit about the holiday rush.

Following that was a duet dance to “Silver Bells” and various Christmas songs performed by the Cardinal Singers, which proved to be a crowd favorite.

“I liked the Cardinal Singers the most,” nursing sophomore Savannah Mansfield said. “I thought it was festive.”

Another crowd favorite was a skit featuring the Cookie Monster, as Lloyd referenced, and Donté Green, a senior theatre major.

“It was really entertaining,” occupational therapy sophomore Allison Huehn said. “I thought the Cookie Monster script was cute.”

Next, performers danced and sang to “The Snow Miser Song” before Cole took the stage to perform an original Christmas song with the Cardinal Singers.

Cole then served as the accompaniment for “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” sung by theatre students Jessica Hurley, Abigail Burgess and Vanguard reporter Melanie Frasca.

Afterwards, Cardinal Singer and music senior Madalyn McHugh sang and played guitar to “Silent Night.” This was her last performance at SVSU.

“It was bittersweet,” McHugh said. “But I am glad that my last performance was the Christmas show.”

The show ended with a tap dance routine by 2011 alumna Amanda Mueller. She is currently a bartender and hip-hop dancer in Chicago.

The large variety of skits and performances offered fun and nostalgia for all ages, which many performers cite as the reason for the show’s continued success.

“The audience was wonderful and really enjoyed the different assortment of acts,” Burgess said. “It’s been a blast working on this production, and this is new and fun format for the theatre department’s Christmas show.”