Maryland Entertainment Group stages 'A Victorian Christmas'
For Alyssa Little, Christmastime means a chance to revisit a fictional family she has grown to love in Maryland Entertainment Group’s “A Victorian Christmas.”
Little, who co-owns MEG with husband Sam, will be staging the next installment of the Abbott family. The show opens Thursday at Zion United Church of Christ in downtown Hagerstown.
For four Christmases MEG fans have been following the holidays with the Abbott family.
“And every year, just like a normal family, we adapt and change and the story changes and it grows,” LIttle said. “My daughter in the show got married, then she had a baby, now the baby is 1-year-old. It changes every year.”
“A Victorian Christmas” weaves classical holiday songs with the Abbott family story and stories by O. Henry, Clement C. Moore and Charles Dickens.
Little not only appears as Margaret Abbott but also has penned the scripts for the shows. For her, the best part about the show is thinking up the next installment of the family for the cast.
“Every year I can hear their voices as I’m writing the script and I know what they can bring to it, so it’s really fun,” she said.
Those who didn’t catch past performances can still come to the shows. She said at the beginning of the show, all the characters are re-introduced and the audience is caught up to what is happening at that particular Christmas party.
One of the things Little loves about the show is that “it’s audience participatory.”
“If you sit in the front row, you’re probably going to get picked on. If you sit on anywhere on the outside of the aisles, you’re probably going to get picked on and get talked to,” she said. “We really try to involve them and act like they are our friends and family at our Christmas party.”
That means there are traditions involved with the show.
“There’s one thing we do every single year: Sing the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas.’ It’s during the show, but we don’t know all of the words, so we ask the audience what the lyrics are and most of the time they don’t them so they have to make them up,” she said. “It’s always a different ‘Twelve Days of Christmas.’ We might have ‘12 crumbling cookies’ and ‘11 marching bands,’ whatever it is it’s always different. We try to remember it, but we’re always miserable at it. That’s the fun of it, we’re frantically trying to remember all the new lyrics.”
Over the years, many of the audience members have returned making them feel like friends and family.
“What’s really fun is a lot of people are telling us that it’s becoming their Christmas tradition,” Little said. “A lot of people tell us that they don’t feel like they’re in the Christmas mood until they’ve come to see the show. That’s a really nice compliment.”
Erin Adams of Chambersburg, Pa., makes her MEG debut as Elizabeth Wakefield.
“I love that my character Elizabeth loves her daughter Emma so much, and is willing to put herself in an uncomfortable situation and an unready situation for the sake of her daughter,” she said.
Playing Emma is Jillian Dugan of Hagerstown. The 10-year-old is already a MEG veteran herself by performing in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Dracula.”
Jillian said Emma is a great character to play.
“I love that she’s sweet and she loves her mother,” she said.
And, she said, she loves “everybody” in the cast.
However, when it came to casting, she asked Little to cast Rick Burkett as one of the new characters.
“He’s very kind and really funny and good to hang out with,” she said.
Jillian said she likes the show’s many stories within the play including Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant.”
She said she likes it because “I kind of get to direct the thing, and have fun with it.”
As for “A Victorian Christmas,” Jillian said the audience will love it because “it’s funny and it has a good message.”
Adams also said she has fallen in love with the show itself.
“I love that this production is the perfect combination between hilarious and heartwarming. There (are) some very serious moments,” she said. “There’s something for everybody. There’s something for the adults. There’s something for the kids. There’s something for your weird neighbor who joins you. It’s a really all around well-done, well-written script.”
And, Adams said, there’s a heartwarming message for the audience.
“I think the audience will take away the importance of family, the importance of surrounding yourself with people who love you, especially around the holidays even in the hardest seasons of your life,” she said. “I think the audience will be wowed by how tight the harmonies are and how fun the production is.”
“I think this year’s message really has to do with love and forgiveness, and also the idea of perseverance in what you desire and what your Christmas wish is, really trying to make whoever your family members are, whatever their Christmas wishes are,” she said. “The idea of family, love and forgiveness.”