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White Christmas headlines ETBU Fall 2022 theatre season

December 8, 2022

The streets of historic downtown Marshall were buzzing with Christmas cheer over the weekend as East Texas Baptist University’s Department of Music and Theatre Arts held its production of White Christmas: The Musical live on stage from November 30 - December 3 at Memorial City Hall. The musical, featuring the story of two World War II veterans who become partners in a singing and dancing act, was directed and choreographed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Natalie Wilson.

The story of White Christmas is uncomplicated and timeless, featuring honest and good-hearted characters who display selflessness, commitment to one another, and a simple innocence that we all crave in 2022,” Wilson said. “It is the world of everyone’s inner Christmas, where we remember to count our blessings, hold our loved ones tight, and celebrate the birth of Jesus. Community is not only at the forefront of White Christmas but also at the core of the theatre.” 

The musical production of White Christmas is based on the 1954 film and has been a holiday favorite for generations. A classic piece that encompasses love, community, and the American spirit, this musical follows the story of Bob Wallace and Phil Davis as they accompany sister act Judy and Betty Haynes to Vermont. Irving Berlin composed the music for the production with songs that are still heard around the country during the Christmas season.

“White Christmas has always been one of my favorite Christmas movies, so when I heard this production was happening, I knew I needed to take the opportunity to go for it,” sophomore music education major Clifford Hickok (portraying Bob Wallace) said. “This production was actually a factor in my decision to transfer to ETBU this year. Coming into it, I knew that I was new to the program and new to the school, and I didn’t know what part I would receive, but it was really exciting to land the role that I wanted. Playing a role originally portrayed by Bing Crosby was an enjoyable experience because I grew up listening to that style of music. I was ecstatic.”

ETBU’s Department of Music and Theatre Arts is a professionally-geared program that provides opportunities for students to grow intellectually, artistically, and spiritually. This semester, the department chose 1 Thessalonians 5:13-18 as their guiding verse, not only because it depicts the type of community seen in White Christmas, but it also encompasses the type of community the Theatre Department hopes to strive after.

My favorite thing about being part of the cast was seeing how passionate everyone is,” freshman music education major Jackson Suparat (portraying Phil Davis) said. “Everyone shows up to rehearsal ready to put in the work! You can tell that they truly love musical theatre. As a cast, we ensure successful productions by holding each other accountable. Whether that means helping each other run through lines, rehearsing the musical numbers, or being there for support in each other's lives. This cast truly all supported one another, and there was a clear sense of family throughout White Christmas.

With the production in downtown Marshall during the Wonderland of Lights, the University had the special opportunity to contribute to the city’s well-established holiday grandeur for the weekend. Because of this connection to Marshall’s annual Christmas tradition, the ETBU cast, crew, and production staff put extensive hard work and preparation into this musical and truly brought it to life at Memorial City Hall.

There have been so many hours put into this show,” junior worship studies major Hannah Hobson (portraying Judy Haynes) said. “Outside of rehearsals, the wonderful theatre majors and staff worked tirelessly on costumes, props, and sets to ensure everything went as smoothly as possible. Behind the scenes, the production is all hands on deck! Members of the cast have jumped in wherever they could help, whether it’s with moving sets, helping with quick changes, or any number of details. I was amazed by the encouragement that the cast shared with each other; this is truly one of the most positive communities I’ve been blessed to be a part of.”

The cast and crew hope that attendees walked away filled with the Christmas spirit, and encouraged by the theme of the importance of community. The timeless production reminded patrons to celebrate the birth of Christ while cherishing time together.

“I hope attendees walked out of the show with a smile, truly recognizing that Christmas is a time to be together with family,” Suparat said. “If they came with their family, I wish it to be a memory they can cherish­—something they can look back to and reminisce about.”

I pray that this Christmas season, we are all reminded of the real reason for celebration,” Wilson added. “May we honor Jesus through our fellowship and community with one another, and may this show honor and glorify our amazing God.”