“A Sedalia Christmas,” a multimedia musical, is debuting tonight at the Liberty Center Association for the Arts, featuring local holiday heritage and traditions, patriotic songs, dance and historic photos and film and also sharing both poignant and humorous scenes of local yuletide life.
The play, written by Sedalia author and local historian Becky Imhauser, is returning for its third run after a hiatus of several years while Imhauser worked on her doctorate. “Sedalia Christmas” previously ran during the 2008 and 2009 holiday seasons.
“People have asked, why did I do this,” said Imhauser, who is also the show’s director. “It’s basically come out of the research for my books, so it was easy because it was all there. It’s based on ‘All Along Ohio Street.’ It started out that way and since then I’ve realized a couple other books that I’ve pulled that into.”
The multimedia aspect of the musical makes it unique.
“It’s multimedia because throughout the play we project historic pictures,” she said. “For example Bob Satnan portrays Guy Snyder, of Inter-State Studio. And most of the people we have pictures of them. It’s either real people or events that were recorded in the Sedalia Democrat or the Sedalia Bazoo, and they are recreated by people.
“One of the main things we’re doing is recreating the historical scenes — it has new scenes, but the premise is still the same,” she said. “We have a really good retention rate because we have a great time doing the show.”
This year the play features 20 actors with 75 percent of them original cast and crew members from the first two presentations, but Imhauser said six to seven people are newcomers.
“It’s kind of cool because Ron Jennings was in our play the first two years,” she said. “And his granddaughter Savannah Simon is in it this year, and his daughter, Megan, is helping.”
Imhauser said the heritage of the play is being passed down to future generations, since Jennings, a longtime Sedalia Democrat reporter who died in 2012, and Imhauser’s father, Leonard Singer, a carpenter who helped with the play, died this year. Singer’s grandson, Joe Carr, is helping behind the scenes this year.
“And that’s part of life with our families,” she said. “In the program, I put the position that when you’re with your family there’s some empty seats at the table.”
The production touches on Sedalia Christmases before the 1860s and the Civil War era up to the present, Imhauser said.
“Sedalia Christmases, there’s almost a hundred years of those, because we do a lot in the ’50s, but then we skip to a closing montage of clips where we recreate Christmas movies where we show how Christmas has changed, not for the good,” she added. “We really just use quick snippets on that, but then we come back to that’s not what Christmas is, that’s not what a Sedalia Christmas is.”
J.R. Walter portrays J. West Goodwin in the play.
“He portrays the host, that’s a newspaper editor of the Bazoo, the Sedalia Bazoo,” she said. “He’s on stage the whole time and interacts with actors and actresses and kind of provides continuity for the scenes, because he remember most of the Sedalia Christmases or wrote it. So he’s been our lead.”
Imhauser stressed that the play is a fundraiser for the LCAA, who approached her about writing the script in 2008.
“I’d never written a script for a theater production, my background is in corporate communications,”she said. “I wrote video scripts, where we had a large budget and cameras to record B-roll, so I was absolutely clueless. If it wouldn’t have been for Ron Wineinger this wouldn’t have happened.”
Wineinger, LCAA’s lead consultant for play selections, sat down with her the first year and helped create what she had written as a video script and turned it into a theater production. For this years’s production, Wineinger is the consulting director.
“He had the concept for having J.R. as J. West Goodwin as being the host,” she said. “He really put it all together, I really didn’t have the capacity to do that, because all I knew was to go hire a camera crew. And he helped direct it the first year.”
Sedalia resident Darrin Hartman has been the musical director and accompanist all three years.
“And he of course is outstanding too,” added Imhauser.
The play is running on Pearl Harbor day, Dec. 7, so Imhauser has special patriotic themes planned.
“We are having a huge patriotic emphasis,” she said. “We’re having several scenes with World War II, we’re having scenes on rationing. We recreating a blackout and have a song that goes with it. Sarah Hisle sings it when the lights go on again. And then we’re recognizing Johnny Housel who was a Sedalian who died aboard the U.S.S. Arizona.”
This portion of the play is the serious part, emphasized Imhauser, while other scenes have humor mixed in, such as the parking crisis in downtown Sedalia and a 1950s fashion show at LCAA where men dressed up as women for a fundraiser.
“The play really, I love the opportunity to do it,” she said. “I see this as an opportunity to talk about what’s good in Sedalia. Because there is so much good in Sedalia, our very historic foundings have been based on giving back to the community, to our country. That’s the whole impetus as far as I’m concerned. We have a wonderful historical heritage, and the best of it comes out at Christmas time. The secondary goal is to share the message of what Christmas really is and what a wonderful heritage we have in Sedalia and it continues.”
Tickets for the musical are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 60 and up, $10 for students with ID, and $7 for children 12 and under. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance at LCAA, 111 W. Fifth St., or by calling 827-3228. The musical will run at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with at 2 p.m. matinee Saturday.