Many claim it's the most wonderful time of the year, but for Michael Prince, it's a certainty. The artistic director at Gaslight Melodrama looks forward to putting on the theater's annual Holiday Extravaganza, which opens Friday.
"Well, I love Christmas to death," Prince said. "It's my favorite show to put on, it's my favorite time of the year. It's my absolute favorite."
The Christmas lights are strung outside the theater on Jomani Drive, ready to welcome guests for the Extravaganza, which features, like all Gaslight shows, a main show and vaudeville revue.
In "The Best Christmas Ever," written by Prince, the Allen family faces a holiday crisis. Evil bankers Lewis and Martin (Garret Lawrence and Josh Lubatti) are trying to foreclose on the family's home on Christmas Eve. With a little help from Clarice, the Christmas Angel (Lauren Nebitt), the Allens — Grandpa (Michael Kubik), his daughter, Karen (Tamara White) and grandkids, Brandon (Chayce Perlis) and Sarah (Savanna Eckert) — pull off a Christmas miracle.
Prince said a highlight of the show is a during a bit of holiday magic by which the family turns into the Clauses: Santa, his oldest daughter and two elves.
"They get turned into the Claus family by their angel Clarice to thwart the bad guys," Prince said. "When they're revealed like that, it tickles the heart."
Those moments of levity are key since the performers pack about the same amount of performances of a show's run (30) in half the time (four weeks versus eight). Luckily everyone is up for the busy schedule, the director said.
"If you ever got the chance to work on Broadway, this is what your schedule would be," he said.
He admits that there's still a bit of relief in that final performance: "By Dec 23, we’re pretty beat. But it's worth it."
Along with the first bill, the evening includes the vaudeville revue "Remember The Magic," written by musical director Warren Dobson.
"It's another one of Warren's very classic holiday vaudeville revues," Prince said. "It's really big and got a lot of heart.
By classic, Prince doesn't mean staid. One of the numbers Dobson features is an update of his popular "Survivor Valley Plaza."
"It plays like an episode of 'Survivor' at the height of the shopping time," Prince said. "It's pretty funny."
Many companies and other groups schedule their holiday parties with a performance. But the big draw is still families, bringing children and visiting loved ones.
"Kids really get into the magic of the show. It's great to see families coming together. To be a part of so many families' holiday tradition is really fun."
Along with entertaining audiences, Prince knows it's important to end the theater's season on a high note.
"I always think of the Christmas show as the last song of our album of the year. You've got to make your last song on the album a big one."