From actor Sammy Gleason, a member of the show's five-person ensemble...
Being a part of this show has been a blessing in disguise for me. At the beginning of this season I had not given A Christmas Survival Guide a second thought, or a first thought for that matter. To be quite honest, my mind was preoccupied with a very different show in the season line up. But when I received a call from the staff here at the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company asking if I would come and audition I thought “Why not?” So I went to the audition and danced and sang, read a few lines and generally had a very good time. I went home, and AGAIN I didn’t give it a second thought. Then I was asked to come in for a callback. “That’s weird” I thought. I went in, danced some more, read some more and sang some more, and I went home. When I got called for a third time, my interest was positively peaked. I went in and read again, I sang again, and I went home...again. Fast forward to the very next day and I was in full hunger mode -- I wanted this show. I was totally on PINS AND NEEDLES waiting to hear who had been cast. Having seen Michael Gold in last season’s “The Music Man” and having now auditioned three times for him, I was just itching for the chance to be in this show. To my utmost surprise and delight I was offered a part -- I even did a little touchdown dance! It’s funny how things come along when you’re not expecting them. I hadn’t planned on this, yet here I am working with some of the best in the business and having the time of my life. Like I said, it’s been a blessing in disguise and one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.
My favorite part of the rehearsal process so far has been the dancing. I LOVE to dance! And Michael, being the Broadway veteran that he is, is just full of ideas when it comes to moving actors around the stage while they sing. There are leaps and shimmies; there are shuffles and splits (that’s my own fault). Feather boas and microphone stands as dance partners, and TURNS! OH how Michael LOVES the turns. In fact, one of his favorite pass times has been to say “…and I’m gonna add another turn here” just to watch our eyes get huge as we try to figure out how to do it without falling over! Then he giggles and shows us how it’s done, all the while knowing that he’s going to do that two more times before the night is over! But seriously, it’s a LOT of fun. And there is SO much dancing. This show is literally song after song after song with little break in between for scenes and dialogue. That’s one of the best parts of the show, but it is also one of the challenges. Any musical theater performer will tell you that hopping from one number to the next with little room for breathing is difficult and “Survival Guide” is no different -- I think the five of us are finally starting to realize how much work this show is going to be. Add to that all of the amazing choreography Michael has given us (and the TURNS!) and you can probably imagine what a ragtag, exhausted bunch we are at the end of rehearsals. Yet with that said, what other show lets you belt your heart out in a jazzy opening number, tap dance as one of Santa’s reindeer, bemoan the Christmas blues in a torchy Bob Fosse-esque tribute, AND sing beautiful ballads and familiar holiday carols in the span of about 90 minutes? NONE! This show is the best. Period.
OK, serious bit now. I have an amazing family and a whole bunch of wonderful Christmas memories -- this season has always been full of joy and magic for me. However, everyone can relate to feeling overwhelmed during the holidays and I am no exception. Not knowing where you fit, who you are, or what the whole thing is about is a very common holiday affliction and “A Christmas Survival Guide” is a show that deals with those ups and downs. Getting to work with this amazing group of artists has brought home to me the concept that Christmas is about being with family and friends. It’s not about what you give or what you get, but rather who you share it with. As long as you are surrounded by loved ones, you WILL experience the joy of Christmas.
So, welcome to the “Christmas Survival Guide” experience! You guys are in for an amazing time, full of fun, laughter and LOTS of heart. Now go buy tickets!!! Cheers!