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Pioneer Theatre Company Presents Original Holiday Musical “It Happened One Christmas”

Alexander I. Weisman

The holidays are a time for nostalgia and tradition. This year, however, Pioneer Theatre Company strives to help audiences create a few new memories with an original production. “It Happened One Christmas” makes its holiday musical premiere Dec. 4 through 19.

“It Happened One Christmas” is an original musical production conceived by PTC artistic director Karen Azenberg and playwright Kenneth Jones — whose play “Alabama Story” made its own premiere at PTC this past January.

The musical is set in Salt Lake City in an abandoned downtown theater and is centered on a legend that snow on Christmas is a result of the magic that happens in the theater.

“I think Karen Azenberg really listened to the community and what they wanted in a Christmas show,” said Lenny Daniel, associate director and choreographer of the play. “Since there is not a lot out there, she decided to give everyone exactly what they wanted and tailored a production to exactly what the community has been asking for.”

The production is comprised of traditional Christmas music with less traditional arrangements, musical theater and pop favorites, dance and spoken word segments.

“This is a Christmas spectacular revue along the lines of Radio City Music Hall, although we don’t have 36 Rockettes,” Daniel said. “It’s like those old television Christmas specials we grew up watching with the Osmonds or Andy Williams. There is so much local talent in the show. They are just phenomenal, and to watch them sing and dance brings a tear to the eye.”

The design for the show was done by resident scenic designer George Maxwell, who most recently designed this year’s PTC presentation of “Fiddler on the Roof” and designed last year’s impressive set for “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Maxwell said they have been buying Christmas decorations since August and that glitter has been everywhere.

one christmas 2

“It’s going to appear like it’s a simple set, but there is a whole lot that went into it. There are things that appear out of the floor and other surprises that we don’t want to give away,” Maxwell said. “It’s going to be a fun evening of entertainment. I think you will be wowed when you come and see it.”

The goal of the production team was to go out of their way to create a musical that could be enjoyed by all while staying true to the spirit of Christmas.

“With Christmas, it’s all a fantasy, and in theatre you try to create this shared memory that allows the audience to believe what they see is what they experienced with their own families,” Maxwell said. “We try to have this universal shared memory that the audience can draw from their own experience and childhood. We try to be nostalgic with what we are doing here, and I think we will touch everyone’s hearts.”

While it can be intimidating to create an original Christmas production that appeals to a broad audience and stays true to the fond memories most people have about the Christmas season, everyone involved in the creative process has worked diligently to create something that will resonate with everyone.

“As long as you stay truthful to the piece and you’re not trying to be cliché, I think that it will ring true with the audience when you are true to the sincerity of the moment,” Daniel said. “We all have that joy in our heart, and that’s our job, as actors and dancers, to bring that to the audience, and I think they are going to just melt.”

Tickets for “It Happened One Christmas” are on sale online at and at the PTC box office. U students can get tickets for $5 during “Student Rush,” which are available an hour before each performance.

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