'Cirque Dreams Holidaze' shines in GPAC's 2017-18 Season


01coverThe holidays are fast approaching, and UNC Pembroke’s Givens Performing Arts Center is ready to entertain well into the new year. Monday, Nov. 20, GPAC takes holiday showmanship to a new level with the 10th anniversary national tour of Broadway musical “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.” The show includes a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree with 30 performers from seven countries as the ornaments. As stars, dreams and ornaments come to life, the stage fills with music, sparkle, song, dance and more.

“The only thing ordinary is the extraordinary,” Director Neil Goldberg said on the show’s website. “The thing that makes ‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze’ so unique and different than traditional holiday shows is you never know what’s going to happen next.”

Jill Winters is the creative content director of music and talent for “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.” Part of her job includes attending circus and performing arts festivals all over the world to find fresh talent. “That is just amazing because these events are really big deals with red carpets and award ceremonies – and incredibly talented artists,” she said. “I get to pluck these amazing performers before other people even know about them.”

Having an international cast means many world views and a diverse talent pool, which is part of what makes the production so special. It also means working through language barriers. There are interpreters, but Winters has also become very good at charades. “We have a great team. They are usually very open to new ideas,” she said. “We have amazingly talented artists, and they work hard, but it takes time to put a show like this together. We start getting ready in May.”

Bringing the magic of the holidays to audiences means pulling out all the stops when it comes to what happens on the stage. Winters credits the team with making the magic happen. From handheld props to larger-than-life scenery to the performers, it all comes together to deliver that feeling that makes this time of year special.

“Everyone who comes to this show leaves with something different,” Winters said. “Anyone from ages 2 to 92 can sit in the audience and enjoy it. I think the kids love the spectacle part … we have slinky candy canes that come across the stage and angels and gingerbread cookies that do flips and soldiers walking on thin wires. We have snow onstage – and, of course, Santa. The show pays tribute to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve, too. I think everyone can have fun at this show and leave happy.”

“Cirque Dream Holidaze” starts at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 20. Tickets range from $21-$41.

Drawing on local talent, the UNCP music department hosts its Ninth Annual Holiday Extravaganza Dec. 1. The Holiday Extravaganza showcases virtually all the university’s ensembles and choirs in performing uplifting renditions of holiday favorites. The performance includes a sing-along of well-known Christmas carols.

“We’re happy to have this unique ‘Cirque’ performance just before Thanksgiving. We hope it helps put our audience in the holiday mood,” said GPAC Director James Bass. “Then, when we come back after Thanksgiving break, we’ll have our annual Holiday Extravaganza, which is not to be missed.”

A “Tuba Christmas” performance at 7:30 p.m. in front of GPAC will precede the Dec. 1 concert; the concert itself starts at 8 p.m. Tickets for the show are $12 for adults and $5 for children. The concert raises money for music scholarships at the university.

The GPAC season continues on Jan. 9 with a Derik Nelson and Family concert. Consisting of siblings Derik, Riana and Dalten, this group grew up performing together. Known for their three-part harmonies, the group has more than 3 million YouTube views. The show features “Derik clones” – electronic clones of Derik – a light show, and a 20-foot video display that takes audiences on a journey that includes landscapes, weather conditions and musical settings.

Derik’s singing has been included on FOX’s “Raising Hope” and “New Girl,” CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother,” and NBC’s “Go On” and “The Voice.”

Riana is no stranger to show business, either. She’s been a casting associate for FOX’s “Empire,” an onscreen vocalist for Renee Zellweger’s pilot “Cinnamon Girl” and the lead vocalist for Princess Cruises.

Dalten appeared on several episodes of television’s “Glee.” He also conceptualized, designed, filmed, edited and executed more than 150 separate videos in perfect sync to create the visual immersion footage that plays on the 20-foot video screen during the show. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $5 for students to $16.

Well-Strung string quartet comes to GPAC Jan. 23. Using vocals and strings, the group blends classical and modern pop music. The group is made up of Edmund Bagnell (1st violin), Chris Marchant (2nd violin), Daniel Shevlin (cello) and Trevor Wadleigh (viola). The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $5-$16.

On March 12, “Amazing Grace: The Musical” takes the stage. Based on the true story behind the song, the performance tells a tale of romance, rebellion and redemption. John Newton must choose between following his father into the slave trade business or listening to his lover’s more compassionate voice. With his slave, Thomas, in tow, Newton sets out on a journey on the high seas where he has a transformative moment of self-reckoning. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $10.

The iconic “Wizard of Oz: The Musical” will show March 19 at 7:30 p.m. This musical promises to blow audiences away with great acting, brilliant music and, of course, flying monkeys. Tickets start at $10.

“On Golden Pond” closes the 2017-18 season. Based on the Academy Award-winning film starring Henry and Jane Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, the show explores an estranged fatherdaughter relationship. It’s heartwarming and touching to watch as an unexpected relationship blossoms. Tickets start at $10. Showtime is 8 p.m.

For information about tickets and the full season lineup, visit www.uncp.edu/gpac or call (910) 521-6361.


Vision Resource Center hosts Out of Sight Dining Event


11VRCSometimes in life, we take certain things for granted. Just imagine what life would be like without having the sense of sight. There are over 900 blind and visually impaired individuals in Cumberland County, which is why the Vision Resource Center presents its Out of Sight Blindfolded Dining Event Saturday, Nov. 18, from 5-10 p.m. at the Hellenic Center.

“The purpose of the Out of Sight Dining Event is to give people the opportunity to get an idea in that space to see what it is like to be blind and visually impaired and how they would feel in that position,” Terri Thomas, executive director of The Vision Resource Center, said. “This is why we need funding for the things that we do with the blind.”

What does it feel like to be blind? Thomas asked this question to blind and visually impaired individuals she did an exercise with. Their answers: scared, vulnerable, not trusting and isolated.

“When I participate in activities and I am blindfolded, I am scared – and it is not a good feeling,” Thomas said. “I can take my blindfold off at the end of the activity, but they don’t have a blindfold on, and this is their reality all day long.”

Proceeds from the event will be used for training and skills development for blind and visuallyimpaired individuals.

“The funding from the event will be used for adaptation/socialization skills and to support the transportation that is needed to transport these individuals,” Thomas said. “They want to do more things that they really like, and they want to be able to socialize with each other.”

Thomas added that blind and visually-impaired individuals want to get out and socialize just like everyone else. They want to enjoy life and have fun.

Transportation has also been an issue this year at The Vision Resource Center. “The air conditioner is not working in our bus,” Thomas said. “We have to be able to transport our people and cannot afford a new one.”

Adaptive technology is also needed for these individuals. This includes iPhones and technology to help them as they navigate around their homes to perform daily tasks and chores.

“It is so disheartening to want to get these items but we just don’t have the money for them,” Thomas said. “I struggle every year, and it is by the grace of God that we make it every year.”

Ticket cost is $75 for individuals, $125 for couples and $600 for a reserved table of eight.

The Hellenic Center is located at 614 Oakridge Ave. For more information, call (910) 483-2719.


PHOTO: The Vision Resource Center’s Out of Sight Dining Event raises funds for blind and visually-impaired community members.


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