Step into the. Rev. Greg Steele’s church office and you’ll find stacks of parasols, pitch forks and Viking hats. He is getting ready for the second annual Covington Christmas musical, "Four Tickets to Christmas," presented by the First Baptist Church Music and Drama Ministries at the Eastside High School auditorium on Dec. 6 at 2 p.m., Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. The admission is free, but the doors open one hour prior to show times and the 500 seat capacity theater is expected to fill quickly.
Set in December, 1905, this year’s plot evolves around the singing Richmond family of Syracuse, N.Y., whose plans to be part of a Christmas production fall through. On the spur of the moment, they get four tickets to go by train to his parent’s farm in Ohio. Things happen along the way as the plot works through relationship problems between Henry Richmond and his dad.
Steele, a theater veteran who has been producing musicals for 25 years, said he chose this musical because the economic conditions fit today.
It was also a good progression for his group as their second production.
He said that last year was the first time every goal and objective was met and exceeded in his expectations.
"This group learns quickly," said Steele as he described how the entire cast took ownership of the worthwhile project and has been rehearsing faithfully since the first week of September.
"I know how time consuming it is and how much work everyone has to put into the production to make it a success," said Grady as he talked about how each person has something to add to the sum of the play. "After the group saw how well it was received last year, they know more what to expect even though it is a different production."
According to Steele, who still pays attention to every detail, including preparing the mood by staging a wagon outside the building, the task of producing a musical is an expensive one that quickly adds up to thousands of dollars in purchasing music, renting the facility to include rehearsal time, orchestra fees and acquiring the sound and lighting equipment. Steele is currently looking for a couple of Model T Fords to place in the production and welcomes any leads on where to find one.
"This is our gift to the community," expressed Steele on behalf of First Baptist Church of Covington. "We do it at the high school because it is a better facility for a dramatic presentation. You can come and be entertained and get the Christmas and gospel message without feeling like you have been to church."
The book and lyrics are by Deborah Craig-Claar and the music and orchestrations are by Mark Hayes. The production features everything from traditional Christmas songs, to ragtime and barbershop quartets to 24-carat Broadway show tunes.
The drama begins onstage at the Syracuse Family Playhouse late evening on December 1, 1905. Singers will delight the audience with familiar holidays selections to include "Simply Christmas," "There’s a Song in the Air," "Twelve Days of Christmas," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Deck the Halls" and "Four Tickets to Christmas."
Scenes two through six take place in the barn of the Chester Richmond farm, Cedar Grove, Ohio, as events lead up to Christmas Eve, 1905.
Orchestra members include Julie Thompson, piano; Pat Schmidt, synthesizers; Amy and Greg Gajownik, trumpets; Scott Revo and Chris Bragg, trombones; Joel Grisswell, tuba; Roger Wolfe, French horn; Kristen Emerson, oboe; Laura Philpott, flute; Ben Tingle, drums; and Scott Stanton, percussion.
Conductor and producer, the Rev. Greg Steele, heads the production staff to include drama directors Becky Morgan and Pam Steele, props and public relations advisor Wanda Reagan, sound technicians Tom Gardner and David Burk, lighting technicians Ken Horstmann and Grady Steele, concert master Greg Gajownik, choreographer Mary Kathryn Orr and costume advisor Leslie Lathem.
The FBC Christmas Choir members are Jim Alexander, Leah Barnett, Ronald Bartow, Lowell Biddy, Sidney Bobbin, Bill Brantley, Connie Brantley, June Burk, Linda Castleberry, Charles Cook, Nancy Cook, Suzanne Cotton, Linda Craig, Suzy Adams Cunard, Doris Deadwyler, Randy Eakins, John Emerson, Priscilla Faulkner, Joanie Fitzgerald, Dennis Fordham, Bertie Ann Hardy, Bill Hardy, Joan Holder, Johanna Hortsmann, Karen Hunter, Lonnie Hunter, Leigh Jay, Ruby Lewis, Rhonda Lowe, Helen McElreath, Maria Mobley, Dawn Moon, Becky Morgan, Jean Mull, Mary Kathryn Orr, Carlene Overstreet, Mildred Palmer, Donna Persinger, Cheryl Robbins, Jimmy Robbins, Donna Russell, Pat Schmidt, A.J. Spillers, Gary and Pam Steele, Frances Stroud, Pat Tate, Ann Williams, Dennis Thompson, Julie Thompson, Goodwin Tuck, Amy Williams and Esther Williams.
The cast is led by major role player, John Emerson as Henry Richmond, the leader of a family singing group; Cheryl Robbins as Lucille Richmond, his wife; Courtney Wynn as Emma Richmond, their daughter; Tyler Boyd as Nicolas Richmond, their son; Jimmy Robbins as Victor Schwab, the musical director at the Syracuse Family Playhouse; Johanna Hortsmann as Eudora Lindstrom, the Playhouse’s resident soprano; Jim Alexander, Dennis Fordham, Randy Eakins, and senior pastor, the Rev. Jason Dees, as the Lamplighters — the Playhouse’s resident barbershop quartet; Daniel Mathis as Preston Pollard, the Playhouse’s stage manager; Billy Boyd as Chester Richmond, Henry’s father and Rhonda Lowe as Eleanor Richmond, Henry’s mother; Cody Ray Caho as Luke Wilcox, a hired hand on Chester and Eleanor’s farm; Jimmy Tanner as the Rev Franklin Doyle, the new pastor in Cedar Grove; Becky Morgan as Cornelia Washburn, the church organist; Grady Steele as the train conductor and the FBC Sanctuary Choir as the Syracuse Family Playhouse Company and the people of Cedar Grove.
Home from college, Grady Steele is cast as the train conductor, helps with lighting and is part of an ensemble that sings behind Luke, one of the characters. He grew up participating in his dad’s musicals at his previous church in Alabama.
For more information, contact Steele at First Baptist Church at 1139 Usher Street in Covington or call 770-786-9031 or visit www.firstbaptistcovington.com.