The holidays are almost over and it’s time to put away my collection of Christmas movies and programs that I’ve collected over the years. I don’t have many of the new movies; most of the new ones don’t make my list. You need to pick movies you are willing to watch year after year and most of the newer films just don’t make the grade for multiple viewings.
I know, I know, the movies I own on tape are shown on tv every year. Why do I feel the need to have my own collection? It began many years ago, when video recorders were new and DVD’s were just a dream in some computer engineer’s eye.
Many years ago, when I was trying to make my way in the world as a serious theatre student, I worked for a small professional theatre company in town. Because I had a fairly decent singing voice and was a good dancer I was mostly cast in musicals, which suited me. I loved the song and dance stuff. The theatre was very small, in the basement of a converted house; the audience sitting around small tables with checkered tablecloths and lit candles or sitting on sofas. Flavored coffees and cold drinks were offered for sale. The theatre began its life as a coffee house in the 1960’s and has worked hard to retain that atmosphere.
One year, the managing director hit upon the idea of producing “Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol”; with performances running almost nightly between Thanksgiving andNew Year’s with added matinees on Saturdays andSundays. Rehearsals began the last week in October so we pretty much lived at the theatre for about 9 or 10 weeks during the holiday season. The show included about 20 to 25 actors with lots of lovely music, sung acappella (without instrumental backup). It was an instant sell-out and became an annual event.
Because the performance area was very small, “A Christmas Carol” was a very interactive play. Carolers would sing in the lobby and onstage before the show and entrances and exits were made through the audience. The first few years, actors had to run around the outside of the building in the cold in order to make an entrance at the back of the house. Later, the theatre built an addition that added an entrance from the 2nd floor dressing rooms to the back of the theatre so we no longer had to make a dash in the snow to make our entrance on time.
I ended up performing the show for about 9 years in a row. The script varied a little from year to year and, as the theatre made it a part of their repertoire, sets and costumes became more elaborate. Everyone played several parts, from carolers to leads. Over the years I performed many different roles. Some of my favorite roles were Mrs. Fezziwig, which I saw as a kind of Mrs. Santa Claus, all plump and jolly;
Because I spent so much time at the theatre, I would always miss the holiday specials on tv. After missing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for a few years I decided to start taping all my favorite movies and shows. I taped my own shows for a few years then began buying copies (better picture and no commercials).
Even though I no longer need to keep the video collection together, I still like to pull them out every December and watch them when I want, not when the tv networks say. My tastes range from the traditional to the not-so-traditional.
Some of my favorites:
- A Christmas Carol (the one with Alistair Sim)
- Miracle on 34th Street (the one with Natalie Wood)
- Holiday Inn
- White Christmas
- Christmas Story
- Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (TV)
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (TV)
- the Nutcracker (with Mikhail Baryshnikov)
- Scrooge (with Bill Murray)
- A Child’s Christmas in Wales
- The Santa Clause
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- The Homecoming (from the Waltons tv special)
Some of my nontraditional favorites:
- The Thin Man
- Die Hard 1 & 2
- Lethal Weapon
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers(this does have a Christmas scene so it counts)
- Sleepless in Seattle (starts at Christmas so I count it too)
This year I found a copy of The Best Christmas Pageant ever. I am still searching for John Denver and the Muppets Christmas special. I never taped it when it was on and I’ve never seen it available for purchase.
Still, whenever I want to get in the Christmas spirit, I just slip a tape in the player and sit back.