Randall Theatre celebrates the season
"Christmas Day was always the happiest day of the year,” says Ed Miller as he reminisces about what he considers truly the most wonderful time of the year.
Wistful, he recalls loved ones embracing the spirit of giving and the family singing carols around the piano.
Those sentimental feelings, like brightly-colored ribbons, wind their way through “With Every Christmas Card I Write,” a multimedia musical revue starring singer Kacie Bowers and co-written by Miller and Lauren James.
This holiday presentation wraps up its week-long run at Randall Theater with performances at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 21-23, with a matinee set for 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 24, at Randall’s Medford venue, corner of Third and Front streets. Tickets are $12 for reserved seating and can be purchased at randalltheatre.com or by calling 541-632-3258.
The show blends live performance, nostalgic images and a playlist featuring cherished Christmas carols. There’s also a mystery and a tale of the glory of a Christmas long ago.
"It’s a mix of fun, warmth and Christmas trivia,” Miller says.
The history of Christmas cards, Santa Claus and other holiday traditions is thrown in for good measure.
"With Every Christmas Card I Write” is the third show created by James and Miller. Their previous collaborations — James arranges the music and Miller writes the scripts — include “The Greatest Generation: A Musical Tribute” and “In the Days of Teddy Roosevelt.”
"With Every Christmas Card" first opened in Grants Pass in 2015 and was an immediate hit.
"We wanted to create a new Christmas show and had a great song list,” Miller says.
The line “with every Christmas card I write” from Irving Berlin’s classic “White Christmas” played over and over in his head as did winter wonderland scenes often depicted on Christmas cards.
The images and happy music evoked memories of fireside family gatherings, Bing Crosby and Santa Claus, he says.
"But, we needed a story, and even though we had so many ideas, it seemed they’d all been done before. How do you come up with a romantic, happy ending that hasn’t been done before?”
After much brainstorming with James, he landed on the idea that there should be a mystery involving a mysterious Christmas card received by lead character Bowers.
When the unusual, unsigned Christmas card appears, Bowers tries to discover its origins by searching through cards from her past. The images inspire her to sing “Winter Wonderland,” “Silver Bells” “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” and other holiday favorites. As she sings, movie clips featuring the artwork of Norman Rockwell, Currier & Ives and images of Christmas cards from 1843 to today.
Bowers is well-known to Rogue Valley audiences as lead singer of the jazz and swing quintet Band du Pays. She also performs with Kacie & the C-Notes.
Near the end of the show, Bowers finally discovers the dramatic story behind the mystery card. It is more than a hundred years old, and an accompanying diary handed down through four generations relates a Christmas miracle witnessed by her great-grandfather.
Miller said the inspiration for the story came from an extraordinary Christmas Eve in 1914 during World War I.
The event, he says, reflects the promise of the season.
James says the story shows the potential for goodwill and peace on earth.
"Audiences go away feeling good … hopeful,” she says.
For James, the most moving part of the show is the performance of “Silent Night.”
Most of the songs performed are popular, secular music of the season, she says.
"We want everybody to feel a part, a connection” she says. “But ‘Silent Night’ is one of the most beautiful songs at Christmas and at anytime of the year. It needed to be in the show, especially since it played a part in the true-life miracle.
"Christmas is a time we can believe in something magical,” she adds.