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Musical tunes in to holiday spirit

Childhood memories, the big band era and a live nativity scene all have a place in the Word of Life Bible Institute's production.

By GAIL HOLLENBECK
Published December 2, 2006


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HUDSON - If you want to get into the Christmas spirit by seeing snow, hearing songs and carols and seeing a live nativity scene, you can find it all at the Word of Life musical, Sights and Sounds of Christmas.

The Broadway-style production opened Thanksgiving weekend and will continue through Dec. 10 at the Harry Bollback Performing Arts Center on the Word of Life campus.

Groups from First Baptist Church of Inverness and Unity Church of Citrus County will attend the production today.

Dee Williams, who has attended before, arranged the trip for First Baptist and will take 43 people from the Prime Timers group along.

"It's a fantastic production," she said. "It's biblically founded. The young people do an absolutely fabulous job."

Using a cast of more than 130, the three-part musical opens with a stage of cast members, dressed in '40s-style winter garb, singing traditional Christmas songs. The setting is New York City and you can almost feel the cold as you watch Frosty the Snowman, Santa, Rudolph and other favorites dancing and singing in front of 60- by 20-foot backdrops.

War heroes and shopkeepers are among those singing tunes that transport listeners to the big band era. In a segment simulating a radio set, replicas of original advertisements remind older viewers of the "golden age of radio."

In the second portion, childhood memories come to life with a colorful Toyland, the little drummer boy, a jack-in-the-box, an enactment of The Twelve Days of Christmas, Raggedy Ann and Andy and everyone gathered around the Christmas tree.

The third part takes a serious look at the season with the birth of Christ. Real livestock give the scene the look of how it might have been that night.

The cast has more than 600 costumes and includes students from the Word of Life Bible Institute and a few staff members.

Mike Laymon has been the producer/director for the institute's productions for the past nine years.

"The Sights and Sounds of Christmas is a Christmas musical spectacular bringing together nostalgia, history, holiday cheer and fun for the whole family," Laymon said. "It will snow right here in Florida in our auditorium. (There are) incredible sets, excellent live musical performances, incredible lighting, special effects and multimedia to take the audience through a Christmas journey back to the history of many of our favorite Christmas songs, the excitement of Christmas morning and a look back to the first Christmas and the reason we celebrate our favorite holiday of the year.

"It is very much a Christmas pageant similar to what you might see at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Each year we change different areas of the program and try new things. That way there is something new and unique every year."

Last year the production's nativity scene took on a new look, not only with musical changes but with set additions and special effects.

"We have added our picture frame effect, which has become a staple of our Easter production as well," Laymon said. "But we also keep the audience favorites that have become a part of the holiday tradition, even though we might add new twists."

As with all productions at the institute, there is a presentation of the Gospel message and an opportunity given for people to make a commitment to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

Williams said she is looking forward to seeing the production again.

"We go almost every year," she said. "And we'll be going back for their Easter production, too."

[Last modified December 1, 2006, 22:03:46]


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