No Christmas season would be complete without St. Luke’s United Methodist Church’s holiday productions.
They have become a must-see for many families in Southwest Orange, and with two big shows — “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Jr.” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” — this year is no exception.
“We have a longstanding tradition of a Christmas concert that features our choirs and orchestra, dancers and actors, to tell the story that is at the center of the season,” St. Luke’s Minister of Worship and Arts Melissa Cooper said. “This fall has been a season where we’ve seen a lot of folks return to church after the chaotic last few years of the pandemic, so we’ve been using a ‘welcome home’ theme. So we thought we’d carry that through to our Christmas concert this year and invite even more folks to make their home with us with the theme of ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas.’”
In addition, the youth theater at St. Luke’s, which had taken a hiatus during the pandemic, has returned this fall and will share a story that Cooper said was important both to the community and to the kids.
“They (the kids) have been through so much the last few years,” she said. “We thought Christmastime is a perfect chance to share a beloved story (Rudolph) that highlights the importance of embracing one another’s differences, and how our differences can actually be our superpowers.”
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
The Christmas concert, under the direction of Senior Director of Traditional Music Josh O’Dell and supported by Director of Children’s and Instrumental Music John R. Mason III, will feature performers of all ages.
There are about 150 people involved in the show, including performers and musicians, a production team, and other volunteers.
The concert will showcase members singing, dancing and playing instruments together to tell the Christmas story.
“This year is all about the music — from our growing 33-member orchestra to our 70-member adult choir and 25-member children’s choir, who will be highlighted even further by our dance ensemble,” Cooper said. “You will get a chance to hear this age-old story through some of your favorite music and some, hopefully, new favorites, as well.”
St. Luke’s families will represent Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in a live manger scene that includes the processional of the three kings, angels and shepherds.
The audience will also have the opportunity to join in on some Christmas favorites, such as “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
The Christmas concert will take place with performances on Dec. 10 and 11.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Jr.”
This show, under the direction of Artistic Director Steve MacKinnon, along with co-director Ke’Lee Pernell, gives the church’s youth a chance to experience a full theater production process.
“They work with professional teaching artists, and are supported by costumes, scenic and lighting teams to help them get the whole experience of what it’s like to be in a professional show,” Cooper said. “Many of our kids are in arts magnet schools or perform in area theaters already — or are considering it — and this gives them a chance to try it out.”
The cast ranges from youth in third through eighth grade, with about 55 people involved in the show, including performers, a production team, and other volunteers.
The show will take place with performances on Dec. 2 through 4.
“Christmas is one of those times where we as the church have a chance (not only) to share who we are with our community but also to help the community focus beyond the hustle and bustle of the holiday season on family, friendship and faith,” Cooper said. “We love giving a space for the community, whether they are affiliated with our church or any church, to celebrate the most beloved parts of the season through music, storytelling and community.”