‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’

SLT Academy students invite you to a ‘A Christmas Cabaret’

Photos submitted to Times Observer Eden Wennberg plays a charismatic elfin revolutionary in “Something Better Than This.”

On Dec. 7, after the Christmas Walk, SLT Academy students will take to the stage to present “A Christmas Cabaret,” a collection of songs, dances, and scenes to make every heart warm this holiday season.

In this 90-minute show, Allegheny Regional Theatre Experience (ARTE) students will sing and dance to “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” and “The Frosty Hand Jive.”

Students in the Academy’s Junior Competitive Troupe will present hilarious, seasonally-spiced monologues and short scenes.

Senior Competitive Troupe members will present a hip-hop dance to “Jingle Bells.”

This holiday show also contains nine moving and unique scenes that originated and grew from the imaginations and experiences of the students performing them. In “A Christmas Cabaret,” the students of SLT Academy’s Senior Competitive Troupe will present scenes featuring songs with the added depth, emotion and joy that comes from intricate character work and scene interpretation.

Photos submitted to Times Observer Lily Walker and Kasey Kophazy catch the swooning Ella Getner in “Wrapped In Red.”

Students Chevelle Yeskey, Eden Wennberg, and Samuel Smith will take to the stage as disenchanted elves performing “Something Better Than This,” a song from the musical “Sweet Charity.” The uproarious trio takes over the stage as larger-than-life depictions of a charismatic revolutionary leader, a pull-no-punches goth and a superficial, self-absorbed beauty. Together, they playfully plot their escape from the long hours at Santa’s workshop and imagine their bright futures.

Carrie Underwood’s “Wrapped In Red” has been re-imagined by students Ella Getner, Kasey Kophazy, and Lily Walker. The scene begins backstage in a dressing room with the three preparing for the show. They should be thrilled, but one of the girls has recently broken up with her boyfriend. Though her friends try to cheer her up through their song, we learn there is even more afoot.

Lyndsey Dippold and Zoe Gearhart have crafted a deeply-moving Christmas Eve hospital room scene of two sisters whose devotion is touching. The scene begins with Lyndsey tending to the comatose Zoe while sharing happy stories of the season. Snuggled to her sister, Lyndsey begins to sing “When You Believe,” from the movie “The Prince of Egypt,” made famous by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.

Students Alyssa Wismar and Joshua Smith erupt in show-stopping song and dance in “You’re Just In Love,” originally sung by Ethel Merman and Donald O’Conner in the musical “Call Me Madam.” In their sidesplitting romp of a number, Wismar plays Mrs. Claus as part Lucille Ball and part slapstick cartoon character, while Smith plays a naive and physically-fluid Gangley the Elf, based on the animated character of Goofy.

Of their “You’re Just In Love” scene, the actors agree that re-interpretation is important to audiences and actors alike. “Taking something everyone knows and changing the way it is perceived,” said Smith, is always going to make a deeper impression. Wismar added that acting a scene the same way as it has already been done is tedious for performers and audiences alike. And, “as actors,” said Wismar, we will likely have a lot more fun and “do better when performing our own interpretation of a song.”

Photos submitted to Times Observer Drew Mandeville and Charlotte Keeports play carolers in a surprise finale rendition of “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.”

“The process,” said Wismar of adapting the scene, “was a very long one. Finding the right character was challenging. But the hardest thing was finding the lines. We had so many ideas, but once we found the right ones, it was smooth sailing. My favorite part is when I (as Mrs. Claus) am jamming to my music with my earbuds in and freestyle dancing. I feel it adds a lot more to the character of Mrs. Claus.” For Smith as well, the process was about building the character from movement on up, “it was much easier once I had a character selected and the way I wanted my character to act.” But the work was a joint effort as Smith confided, “the duet (portion of the song) is by far my favorite. It is a lot of fun singing our different parts at the same time.”

While Smith hopes audiences will be entertained “by some of the funny antics as well as impressed with the choreography and vocals,” Wismar adds that she hopes audiences come away with a “feeling of being in love” to which they can relate. She also hopes that audiences are able to “have fun and laugh along with” the action.

The remaining five Senior Competitive Troupe scenes include Ethan Monroe performing Michael Buble’s “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” in rat-pack style in a New York lounge to adoring fans and featuring live accompaniment from vocal instructor Mr. Kevin Hunt.

While student Abigail Wilson liked Earth Kitt’s purring, iconic version of “Santa Baby,” she wanted to create something that meant more. Wilson chose to perform the song as a mischievous hotel housekeeper, trying on the fancy clothes of a hotel guest while pretending to be wealthy and spoiled.

Madelynn Jones brings joyful tears to the usually light holiday fare of “All I Want For Christmas,” featured in the movie “Love Actually.” In Jones’ re-envisioning of this classic song of romantic love, her character instead longs for her father’s return from military duty in time to be with their family on Christmas day.

Photos submitted to Times Observer Lyndsey Dippold and Zoe Gearhart play sisters in a touching scene featuring the song, “When You Believe.”

Abigail Kent is the picture of teen angst playing the part of a cheerleader who has inadvertently cheered for the wrong team and been mocked by all those she thought were her friends. As Kent dismantles her yearbook, tearing up the friendships that supported her, she decides to build “a kingdom of isolation” before performing “Let It Go” from the movie, “Frozen.”

The final number of “A Christmas Cabaret” features Charlotte Keeports and Drew Mandeville playing plotting carolers with an epic surprise for their intended targets. Details will give too much away, but we will share that the scene grows to involve every SLT Academy student as well as many special guests.

“A Christmas Cabaret” at Struthers Library Theatre promises to be the perfect cap to an evening devoted to kicking off the holiday season with joy. The gifted students of SLT Academy have “been working so hard on these scenes, and it has turned out to be a blast,” shared Alyssa Wismar. ” I think that this show will be very fun to watch.”

“A Christmas Cabaret” starts at 8 p.m. at Struthers Library Theatre at 302 West Third Avenue in Warren, but the box office, concessions and the Candy-gram station (where you may send sweet wishes backstage to performers) will open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and free for children under 5. Tickets are available at Struthers Library Theatre office from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. weekdays, by phone at (814) 723-7231, and at the box office one hour before the show.