While the majority of us wait until Thanksgiving to start decking the halls and trimming our trees, many are already moving full speed ahead. Fayetteville musician Laura Stevens is one of them.
Stevens, the mastermind behind The Heart of Christmas Show, prepares for Christmas all year long. It’s her mission. Stevens, along with her talented ensemble, kicks-off the Christmas season in Fayetteville. It’s not just entertainment, it’s their passion.
In its 17th year, The Heart of Christmas Show brings a Broadway-style musical to the community each Christmas replete with great costumes, big dance numbers and even bigger singing numbers. The show, which is on stage for the public just one weekend, impacts the community all year long in big and small ways that most people will never realize.
The cast of the show is comprised of 36 talented young people between the ages of 5 and 18. And while their talent brings humor and spirit to the season, their passion for the community brings something much more important. The show was born from a need in the community to give talented young people an outlet to grow their talent. The Heart of Christmas Show provides a whistles and bells, full production, professional environment for child performers to develop and gives them a memorable experience. It also give the audience memorable experiences as well. The audience is enthralled by the show’s level of professionalism, talent and entertainment value.
Stevens, the founder and director of the show, noted that the best compliment she gets from audience members is that they forget they are watching young people perform until a “5-year-old comes out, steals your heart and gets a standing ovation because he was so good.”
That doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work. The cast starts rehearsals about three to four months out. But Stevens’ work starts immediately after the curtain closes on the last performance. It is a tremendous effort with a lot of moving pieces. She first has to assess what worked and didn’t work in the production. Then she has to look for ways to make it fresh and to up the entertainment value. For an artist like Stevens, that is the fun part. But she also has to tackle the business end of the show.
When the show was first conceived, it was meant to be a one-time experience. But its success within the community was overwhelming, causing Stevens to explore the idea of making it an annual event, which has morphed into a Fayetteville tradition that is one of the biggest annual events at the Crown and in the community. To make the show work, Stevens needs talent, but she also needs commitment from the community, which comes from ticket sales, but more importantly from the support of local businesses. Without the sponsorship of the show by local businesses, many of whom have been with Stevens since the first show, The Heart of Christmas Show would not be possible.
“Thesponsor support has been a lifeline to continue the show and to improve the show,” she said. “We pay for all the expenses of the show with the sponsor support so that we can give all the ticket money back to the community through the charities we pick each year.”
And that’s what is truly at the heart of The Heart Of Christmas Show. The first show was designed specifically to help children in need in Cumberland County. Each year, The Heart of Christmas Show has kept its promise to give away 100 percent of the ticket sales from the weekend shows to local children’s agencies that work to help sick and abused children.
Additionally, the show is performed for school children throughout the community, with proceeds going back into the schools. Throughout its run, The Heart of Christmas Show has raised more than $170,000 for local schools. With the weekend shows and the school shows, it has raised more than $575,000 to help children in our community.
With that kind of giving power, Stevens and her cast of talented performers have lived up to their motto, “Children helping children.”
“We have and will continue to help the children of this community because we believe it is a privilege to help others,” explained Stevens. “It teaches our performers to look outward instead of inward. ”
Stevens said the philosophy she instills in her cast is simple. “Want to know the secret to happiness in life? Helping others. We were created to do that. Ephesians 2:10 says, ‘For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to do.’”
“We can make a difference. One life at a time; one community at a time,” she concluded. And the cast has shown that for 16 years, making the community better one show at a time.
The Heart of Christmas Show is on stage at the Crown Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 29 at 1 and 7 p.m. and on Sunday, Nov. 30 at 3 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit the website at www.heartofchristmasshow.com