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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Youth drive virtual ‘Christmas by the Bay’ in Marinette

Critic At Large

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Marinette Campus, Children's Theatre

Show poster.

MARINETTE, Wis. (WFRV) – Young people get a chance to do their performance thing in a different format in the fourth annual “Christmas by the Bay.”

The show by University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Marinette Campus, Children’s Theatre this year is a pay-to-view virtual presentation until Dec. 20 at this address: uwgb.edu/christmas-by-the-bay.

The 45-minute show is filled with Christmas favorites sung by an age range as found in a one-room schoolhouse, with the teacher joining in, too.

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has created many hybrids on the performance scene in Northeastern Wisconsin, and this is another in league of its own.

All Kelly Mathey wants for Christmas is two front teeth. (Screenshot)

Performances in the video start on the seasonally decorated stage of Herbert L. Williams Theatre, named for the inspiration of Theatre on the Bay. With hand-held microphones, Buddy Beyer and Brittney Koerner sing unmasked and socially distanced in the pop-beat song “You Make It Feel Like Christmas.”

Next, Emily Halfmann pours herself into “O Holy Night” on the stage as Brittaney Welch, creative director of the program (the teacher), plays piano accompaniment.

Other songs either are recorded elsewhere or on the stage with hand-held microphones or by way of the sound system of the format being used.

Of the latter, Hannah Fields clearly sings “Mary Christmas Darling” likely from her home in front of a string of lights on a plain backdrop.

Next, Marie Newton has a showy presentation on a different system in which the sound doesn’t match the lips but extra scenes with animations can be spliced in as she romps through “Christmas Wrapping” (think “rapping”).

Also more complex is the harmonic “That’s Christmas to Me” with seven singers singing on separate screens, likely recorded in individual homes.

“White Christmas” is sung with 11 singers spread in the center seating section of the theater.

Overall, the show is filled with feelings of young people about Christmas, and they are clearly liking the opportunity to perform.

***

Program

+ “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” – Buddy Beyer and Brittney Koerner

+ “O Holy Night” – Emily Halfmann

+ “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” – Kelly Mathey

+ “The Christmas Song” – Addison Light

+ “Merry Christmas Darling” – Hannah Fields

+ “Christmas Wrapping” – Marie Newton

+ “When Christmas Comes to Town” – Andrew Halfmann and Lauren Halfmann

+ “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – Malachi Schmiege

+ “Peace on Earth”/“Little Drummer Boy” – Bethany Welch and Brittany Welch

+ “Santa Baby” – Buddy Beyer

+ “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Kate Schwaba

+ “That’s Christmas to Me” – Buddy Beyer, Hannah Fields, Emily Halfmann, Brittney Koerner, Marie Newton, Bethany Welch, Brittany Welch

+ “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Brittany Welch

+ “White Christmas” – Buddy Beyer, Andrew Halfmann, Emily Halfmann, Lauren Halfmann, Brittney Koerner, Addison Light, Kelly Mathey, Malachi Schmiege, Kate Schwaba, Bethany Welch, Brittany Welch

***

The video isn’t going to win any awards for consistency, but that matters little.

It’s a big deal for young people to perform in shows. This production is a bigger deal because access is greater because of the Internet.

This production is a bigger deal in a bigger picture behind the scenes.

The Marinette campus has a strong connection with the community through its children’s theater program. Teachers in the area look to it for opportunities to expand the scope of their students in not only the stories that theater tell but seeing live theater. The Marinette campus more than others in the region has that special wavelength going.

“Christmas by the Bay” is one way the wavelength works. Amid restructuring in the University of Wisconsin, by golly, the program was going to have a show this year, playing the virtual-production card.

At the end of the video a statement is made by Linda Hornick, program specialist, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Marinette Campus, Continuing Education. She adds the show was put on for the young people “and to let you know that we’re still here, and we’re planning for the future.”

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