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Elves, Santas and Barbies

Encore's 'Let It Snow' ready for the stage.

Take some sprightly elves, multiple Santas, dancing Barbie Dolls and a whole lot of singing and dancing and you've got "Let It Snow" — this year's holiday musical performed by Encore Theatrical Arts Project of Chantilly.

Choreographed and directed by Encore founder Raynor van der Merwe, it will be presented, the next two weekends, at the Ernst Community Cultural Center on NOVA's Annandale campus. Tickets are $12 for students and senior citizens and $15 for adults; they're available at the door, or call 703-222-5511. Part of the proceeds goes to Ronald McDonald House.

Encore members will give 10 performances over a five-day period. Show times are Saturday, Dec. 6, at 2, 5 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 7, at 1 and 4 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 12, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13, at 2, 5 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 14, at 2 p.m.

"I think they've done an incredible job," said van der Merwe. "I'm so proud of them and so pleased to be working with such talented, dedicated performers."

AS FOR THE SHOW, she said, "Besides having wonderful dancing and a great storyline, Santa's workshop has some extraordinary sets with a lot of activity. Each year, it's my aim to take the performers to a higher level and give the audience something even better to see."

The four lead characters are the adult elves — played by professional stage veterans Tina and Dan Delafield — and the young elves, portrayed by Colby Dezelick and Karsten Dees, both 9. The show starts in New York and goes to the North Pole, where Santa's toy-making machine has broken down and he's gone to get the part to fix it.

"The elves are busy fixing up the toys that have come out wrong," said dancer Lee-Ann Joel, 20, of Chantilly's Franklin Glen community. "Santa gets the part and mails it back, and the two head elves carry on without him. As soon as they put on their outfits, they turn into the next Mr. and Mrs. Claus, so it shows how Santa chooses his successor."

The 35-member cast ranges in age from 8-20 and has been rehearsing since August. Joel's been with Encore seven years and has been dancing since she was 8. "Dancing gives me a natural high," she said. Her favorite number in this show is "Multiplying Santas."

"A full group of us are dressed as Santas and we dance together," said Joel. "It's a pain-in-the-butt costume to put on, but it's a fun number to do." She said the toughest part is rehearsing on Sundays when she'd rather be doing something else, but she loves "actually performing the show and entertaining people."

"Let It Snow" is a comedy, and she said people of all ages will enjoy it. "People are dressed in elf costumes of all different colors," said Joel. "And there are reindeer, jack-in-the-box dolls and lots of songs and dancing."

MEAGHAN MORAN, 17, a Centreville High senior, is a dancer, singer, reindeer, Santa, elf, Rockette and Barbie doll. "I love the Santa number just because of the crazy costumes," she said. "We're all stuffed and look crazy and goofy, and it's really funny."

Dancing for 14 years, she also likes the "Christmas in New York" number. "This is my sixth year here, and we've had it in the show for five of those years. And since it's my last year with Encore, it's nice to have it back again." She says this year's show is particularly special.

"It's made up of lots of different Christmas songs with different group-parts and little vignettes to make you feel like you're in New York City," said Moran. "You see Rockettes dancing and girls Rollerblading. The backdrop is Radio City, Macy's and store windows. We're all wearing street clothes, scarves and caps, like we would in New York."

She says the audience will love the show because it has "really funny parts, the two young elves are so cute, the scenery is bright and eye-catching, the performances are full of energy and the dancers perform everything from a clown routine to a kick-line number."

Kasey Dezelick, 13, of Oak Hill, is a dancer and an elf and has been dancing since age 3. She said van der Merwe helped her with her technique and even "helped me figure out what I want to do with my life — be a dancer."

As for this show, she especially likes the follies number. "We're Barbies coming out of the toy shop wearing red-velvet dresses [trimmed in] white fur and rhinestones," she said. "We tap dance, and it shows off our girly, Barbie-Doll side."

The hardest part, said Dezelick, is the dancing. "Everything has to be exactly perfect, and everyone has to do the same thing at the same time. The best part is being with all my friends, having a good time while dancing and doing what I love."

LITTLE BROTHER Colby, a fourth-grader, has danced since he was 6 and likes it because "it shows your enthusiasm and a lot of different things about you." In "Let It Snow," he said, "I'm a kid elf — and very mischievous. I get a lot of people in trouble and am clueless about the whole Santa business, but I'm going along with it. The girl, kid elf is smart and tries to figure out what happened to Santa."

Colby's favorite number is "North Pole," in which all the elves come out and dance together. "The song shows how things work at the North Pole," he said. "The steps are really good, the colors are bright and the costumes express each elf's personality."

Impressed with Encore's professionalism, he said, "They want us not to just say our lines, but to think about why we're saying them and what they mean." And he really likes the rehearsals: "They're really fun. You can try new things and sort of play around with your part and figure out what works best."

Centreville High junior Paige Williams, 16, has danced for 13 years and with Encore since it began in 1996. In the show, she portrays a salesperson trying to sell slippers in Macy's to the two adult elves. Her favorite number is "Fan Tan Fanny," from the revival of "Flower Drum Song."

"We dress in cute, black-and-red dresses with long, hair braids and red fans," she said. "It's a number in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is part of the show." And using a song from a professional show, she said, gives the performers a taste of real, Broadway theater.

Williams said it takes a lot to learn how to perform with two props — the fans and braids — "so it's a good, teaching show." And she believes the audiences will like it because "they're ready to see a great show and have it put them in the holiday spirit. And it gets us in a Christmas mood, as well."

"RAYNOR GIVES us such a good experience with our shows," continued Williams. "She prepares us so well for the world of musical theater because — not only do we get training in performance and technique — but we develop a respect and a love for what we're doing."

Meaghan Moran's younger sister Courtney, 14, a Liberty Middle eighth-grader, has spent six years with Encore and particularly likes tap dancing because "I like all the rhythm." She likes the "Multiplying Santas" routine because "it lets me dance as a whole, different person inside that big costume."

She said the audience will like the show because it's geared for families. Costume changes can be "stressful" because they're so quick, said Moran, but she loves performing. She said van der Merwe taught her that "technique is important, but style is what really makes a dancer good."