Ocean City Theatre Company creates new holiday show for 2013

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Submitted / Professional performers shine in the Greater Ocean City Theatre Company’s annual holiday spectacular. Submitted / Professional performers shine in the Greater Ocean City Theatre Company’s annual holiday spectacular.

OCEAN CITY — Featuring a brand new set and a cast of professional dancers and singers – including Elizabeth Toal, a 2007 Ocean City High School graduate, and Julia Wilson, a local fourth grade student – the Ocean City Theatre Company presents “Lights, Camera, Christmas,” an original song and dance tribute to the holidays.

The nine-member cast will perform the high-energy, family celebration 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 at the Ocean City Music Pier, Moorlyn Terrace and Boardwalk.

“It’s going to be really cool,” said Michael Hartman, theater company artistic director, who is directing and choreographing the production.

Hartman said the opening number was specially arranged for the Ocean City Theatre Company by award-winning composers Keith Wilson and Juan Cantu for the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.

The music, he said, comes from famous winter and Christmas-themed movies. There will be some favorites from Christmas productions of the past and some new songs, too, he said.

“This is original. It’s no where else,” Hartman said of the production. “It’s all from my crazy brain. I’ve worked with different music arrangers to put it together.”

Hartman said the idea for the production came to him a year ago as he was beginning to put the 2012 Christmas production together.

“I thought about it, and then I ran with it,” he said.

There are nine professional cast members.

Wilson comes from the Ocean City Theatre Company junior company and will sing “That’s What I Want for Christmas,” which she performed Friday, Nov. 29 as the city celebrated the arrival of Santa Claus on the roof of City Hall.

“I love the cast. We have only four people who have worked with us before, and five new members,” Hartman said. “We brought in a whole new level of energy.

“The hope is that people will hear about this and want to take a drive to Ocean City and visit during the holiday season. We hope a lot of locals will come out, as well.”

The production offers something for everyone, Hartman said.

“We’re really excited,” he said. “I hope the production will kindle the holiday spirit in everyone as the magic of the season comes to life.

The cast is pretty excited, too, including 24-year-old Toal, a former Miss West Chester and West Chester University graduate. Performing in Ocean City where she started so many years ago brings a big smile to her face.

“Home is where the heart is and Ocean City is home,” she said. “I have worked with Michael Hartman since I was 7 years old. Ocean City will always hold a special place in my heart. Even if I end up thousands of miles away, performing in Ocean City will be special.

Toal majored in music education at West Chester. She’s taught music, theater camps and given voice lessons. She plans to move to New York City in the spring and pursue a performing career.

Her first appearance with Hartman was as a bunny rabbit “many, many” years ago, she said. Toal said the performing bug bit when she was as a child.

“It’s kind of funny. When you are on the stage, you are transported to another dimension. You can create another universe and take the audience with you,” she said.

The alternate universe, she said, is laced with music and fantasy.

“It’s so fulfilling,” Toal said. “You can be someone else, someone you never dreamed you could be, on the stage.”

Billy Hart, 25, is a veteran Ocean City Theatre Company performer and thrilled to be back in Ocean City. The New York University graduate said he “loves the people and the energy” of the small town performance.

“It’s kind of a whirlwind, but it’s a lot of fun,” Hart said.

He has performed in theaters throughout the Delaware Valley and New York. He recently disembarked from a nine-month stint on a Disney cruise.

The cast has a lot to learn in a short amount of time, Hart said, but it’s worth it.

“You get to live in imaginary circumstances. It’s a free-for-all for your imagination,” he said. “What kid didn’t love to live in pretend? I get to be someone else. This is a really fun performance, a lot of music.”

Hart said the reaction of the audience after a holiday performance makes it all worthwhile.
“One time we ran into a laid-off steel worker after a performance,” he said.

Hart recalled the man bought the cast members dinner because he was so appreciative of their efforts to please the audience.

“He said, ‘You guys make our lives bearable. What you do makes a difference, makes our lives more enjoyable,’” Hart said. “In tough times his words have gotten me through. It’s why we do it, to brighten up the lives of our audience. I can’t imagine a world without the arts.”

Admission for the production is $18 for adults and $15 for kids under 12. For tickets, call 609-525-9300, see www.ocnj.us/boxoffice or visit the community services office in City Hall, Ninth Street and Asbury Avenue.

“Lights, Camera, Christmas” is sponsored by Gillian’s Wonderland Pier.

See www.oceancitytheatrecompany.com for more information.

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