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Holiday shows on the Grand Strand

The live-theater revues include carols, costumes and dancers. Plus The Blues Brothers. And pirates singing “Good King Wenceslas”

By Steve Palisin
spalisin@thesunnews.com

The Grand Strand is in Christmas mode, with music, ice skating, comedy – and now pirates – to celebrate the season.

“The Carolina Opry Christmas Special” now in its 27th year, and the other house theaters have added and changed numbers from extravaganzas performed last year. The Opry also carries the spirit the longest, through Jan. 5.

The Alabama Theatre marks its 20th year of Christmas shows; “Christmas on Ice” has made a three-peat at the Palace Theatre; the Carolina Improv Company continues building on its holiday menu of topics for an evening; and the producers of “Dino’s TV Christmas Special” and “The Marvelous Wonderettes – Holiday Prom” dinner shows have reopened at The Grand Theatre in Surfside Beach, S.C.

Even pirates have gotten into the swing of things, with Dolly Parton’s “Pirates Voyage Fun, Feast and Adventure” launching its first Christmas show since the former Dixie Stampede dinner theater was transformed into a seafaring experience in June 2011.

“The real challenge,” said Ken McCabe, the venue’s entertainment director, “was thinking about all the iconic Christmas things and not losing the pirates’ fights and swashbuckling. It’s kind of like the pirates take on Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.’ ”

That’s where Captain Scrooge fits in, joined by the Spirit of Christmas, to travel back in time and through the present to the future in the familiar story adapted in various ways and media through the years.

“That let us use the elements we have in the regular show,” McCabe said, “and introduce some new ones just for the Christmas season.”

He said this recounting of Scrooge aboard a ship includes two screens to project special Christmas images, along with a toys segment and a live nativity – two segments carried over from Dixie Stampede. Blending in more acrobats by professional actors from the regular pirates show and “more things dropping from the ceiling ... all in a black light” gave show producers more opportunities for creativity with this new presentation.

Without giving away too many special effects in the show, McCabe said the costume for the ghost spirit stands 15 feet tall, and is manned through someone inside, “holding on to the elbows of the giant arm extensions.”

In keeping the flavor of pirates for this Christmas event, he said tunes worked into the plot cover more “old English-feel” titles such as “Good King Wenceslas,” “Here We Come a-Caroling” and older public domain classics.

McCoy said a core cast of 15 fuels the show in multiple roles, with “a lot more behind the scenes” and serving the meals to the audience.

Credit also extends to the animals crossing water in the show, those with hooves appearing for Christmas – including a donkey, sheep and camels – and year-round stars with fins, sea lions and mermaids.

For the finale, giant Christmas trees that rise out of the water and huge ornaments drop from above as all the ships are illuminated.

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