A great way to kick off the holiday season is by seeing Encore Theatrical Arts Project’s new show, “All I Want for Christmas.” This song-and-dance extravaganza aims to delight audiences of all ages.
Show times are Dec. 8 and 15 at 1, 4 and 8 p.m.; Dec. 9 and 16 at 1 and 4 p.m.; and Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. at NOVA’s Annandale campus at 8333 Little River Turnpike. Tickets range from $17-$30 at www.encore-tap.org/. Or call 703-222-5511.
“The sets are huge and glorious, the costumes are colorful and there’s a lot of acting, plus both old and new songs,” said Director and choreographer Raynor van der Merwe. “We have everything from dancing reindeers and elves to sophisticated Rockette-style numbers — one, done with lighted wreaths.”
The 31 dancers have been training and rehearsing 18 hours/week in preparation, and van der Merwe says they’re “enthusiastic, talented and giving performers.” Rounding out the cast are acting veterans Tina and Dan Delafield who portray the head elves, Margaret and Marv.
“The girls have worked incredibly hard and have been a joy to work with,” said van der Merwe. “And the upbeat numbers will have the audience dancing in their seats.”
The sets will show New York’s Rockefeller Center and the North Pole. Designed and painted by Tabitha Dees, they’re 50 feet wide and 20 feet high and she put in 18-hour days for six weeks to complete them. But she says the long hours and hard work are all worthwhile.
“They have lights, real working windows and doors, and there’s even snow,” said Dees. “One of my favorite parts is when the curtain goes up and the audience gives a collective gasp. For a moment, they’re transported to another place.”
“That’s part of the magic of theater,” added van der Merwe. “For a little while, you’re all on the same journey together.”
Centreville’s Logan Floyd, in her fifth year with Encore, has danced since age 9. In the show, she plays Mistletoe the elf. “She starts off as a good elf, but makes the mistake of opening a letter meant for Santa — which she’s not supposed to do,” said Floyd. “Because of it, she’s infected with the Gimme-Gimme Flu and becomes selfish.” She then passes it on to the other elves and they have to find an antidote.
As Mistletoe, Floyd likes transforming from a good to a bad elf. “Everyone else is such a good character, so it’s fun getting to explore a different type of character,” she said. Her favorite song is “Cool Yule.” In it, she said, “Mistletoe’s made the other elves her minions and they’ve changed from red and green outfits to all blue. And I get to act very full of myself in that song.”
Floyd said the audience will love the show. “We have some fun numbers with props and special effects, a grand and colorful set, and a really enjoyable plot.”
Teen Audra Avery, who’s homeschooled, began dancing at 3 and joined Encore at age 6. She said van der Merwe taught her “how to show the audience with your expression how much you love to dance — which I do.”
She plays an elf named Twinkle and, when the story starts, she’s in charge of getting things ready for Christmas. But she’s eventually infected with the flu, as well, which makes her want to keep all the presents for herself.
“I usually play the nice elf,” she said. “But Twinkle’s character changes, so it’s like playing two parts. And I love the costume — it’s a short blue, pixie-type dress; all the costumes in this show are really amazing. My favorite number is ‘Reindeer;’ we wear brown and have antlers, and the song has a lot of leaps and is really high-energy. I think the audience will also like our new, winter set for the North Pole and the storyline.”
Performing with Encore since she was 4 is Alia Artieda of Centreville’s Sully Station community. She loves dancing because, she said, “I can express myself about everything.” In the show, she dances with the ensemble, and she especially likes the “Cool Yule” number because it’s done with a smaller group and “it’s bluesy, which is more my style.”
Her favorite costume is worn during the Rockette number. “We’re all in white leotards with ruffles in the back and long, white gloves,” said Artieda. Describing the show as “good for all ages,” she said, “There are a lot of new dances this year and the acting is really great.” At Encore, she said van der Merwe’s taught her how to manage her time and keep organized. And, added Artieda, “She gives us a lot of life lessons.”
Chantilly High sophomore Renee Griese has been with Encore since the sixth grade. “Dancing is performing and it’s an amazing feeling being up on stage and having people clap afterward,” she said. “It gives you a really good sense of accomplishment. And at Encore, I learned how to be part of a team and help others.”
She especially likes this show’s doll costumes — plaid dresses and curly blond wigs. Her favorite song is “Don’t’ be Late” because “it really encompasses New York life; you can’t be late for things.” Calling the show “kid-friendly,” Griese said, “When the curtain goes up and you hear all the little kids, they think everything they see onstage is real and are totally entertained by it.”
Fairfax’s Grace Cryblskey acts and dances in six numbers. “I play a little girl talking with her friends about Santa,” she said. “She thinks Christmas is only about getting presents. I also play an elf named Jinkxie. At first, she’s a regular elf and then she turns evil, and it’s fun playing both characters.”
Cryblskey’s favorite number is “Winter Wonderland” because “it’s about how Christmas is a winter wonderland and it’ll snow while we’re dancing.” She said the audience will enjoy the whole show because “the script is well-written, very funny and entertaining.” She loves dancing because “you get to share your talents with others and make them happy.”
Christina Mastracchio, 14, attends St. Veronica Catholic School in Chantilly’s Franklin Farm community and is a 10-year member of Encore. “When I’m onstage, it’s the most amazing feeling,” she said. “I love performing and seeing people’s reactions when I do something cool.”
She especially likes the song, “Dolly,” because “we get on a train and the sound effects are really good, and the tap dancing is very crisp.” Overall, she said, “The audience will like the show because the dancing is professional, the singing is amazing and so is the acting — and everything just comes together.”
“All the girls in this production want it to be great as much as I do,” added van der Merwe. “It’s a full cast focused on a common goal, and that’s what makes it special.”