The 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.