Five months out, Christmas Show preparation going strong

July 23, 2012

Hall of Music Productions theater technicians Dallas Johnson (left) and J.D. Fackler work on a wooden set piece for this year's 79th annual Purdue Christmas Show. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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In a small workshop deep within Stewart Center, workers have been toiling since May to build wooden props that look more than a little out of season.

Snow-covered evergreen trees and large mounds of the wintry substance are taking shape there, all in preparation for the 79th annual Purdue Christmas Show, scheduled for Dec. 1 and 2.

Summer might seem early for building Christmas Show set pieces, but the production's organizers say that getting a head start is a key to the show's success. In fact, preliminary Christmas Show planning typically begins as early as February, says Steve Hall, director of Hall of Music Productions.

"Planning and executing the Christmas Show truly is a year-round endeavor," Hall says.

"It takes a lot of hard work from a lot of people -- including those who are part of the Hall of Music, Purdue Musical Organizations (PMO) and those who are volunteering -- but when you have so many people involved, something magical happens."

This year, the show's theme is "Christmas Begins Here" and its setting is the North Pole. Hall and Steve Schlenk, PMO's director of operations, have been working with others for months to come up with the show's stage designs, creative storyline, musical numbers and more.

Each of the show's four performances will include more than 250 campus and community performers, including members of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club, Purduettes, Purdue Bells, University Choir, Heart and Soul, All Campus and Community Chorale, and the PMO Kids Choir. A professional orchestra consisting of 15 musicians also will take part.

The show will last about an hour and 45 minutes and will include two acts bookending a carol sing-along, in which the crowd is encouraged to participate.

"In the last few years, we've really focused on making each year's show individual and unique," Schlenk says. "A great way to do that is to create very specific set pieces and very appealing sets. This year, we're also focusing on refining the transitions between scenes to keep the story moving."

To help produce the best shows possible, employees often gladly contribute in ways not necessarily delineated in their job descriptions. For example, this year Schlenk has written lyrics for one of the show's songs. Other employees buck their traditional University roles to complete tasks such as costume creation and music composition.

For the two to three Hall of Music Productions workers who build the Christmas Show set pieces, getting started early on that substantial task is vital, says Skip Eads, stage systems coordinator for Hall of Music Productions. Otherwise, it would be difficult to complete the work due to the approximately 1,100 events the team supports during the fall and spring.

"Building the Christmas Show set pieces is a very positive experience for us. It's a great creative outlet," Eads says. "It's a very enjoyable thing to be able to put a personal touch on a piece and then, when show is in full swing, to watch people enjoy our work."

Christmas Show ticket order forms will be available at beginning Aug. 1. Tickets are $26 for adults, $24 for seniors, $20 for students and $12 for children 12 and under. Faculty and staff who purchase tickets by Sept. 15 will receive preferential seating.