2018-12-07 / Front Page

‘White Christmas’ offers sensory friendly performance

By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer


Lyric Music Theater, in partnership with the Robbie Foundation, will present a sensory friendly performance of “White Christmas” on Dec. 15. Playing the two sets of performing paramours are, from left, Jon Libby as Bob, Paul McIntosh as Phil, Jacklyn Grigg as Judy, and Kaitlin McGinley as Betty. (Courtesy photo) Lyric Music Theater, in partnership with the Robbie Foundation, will present a sensory friendly performance of “White Christmas” on Dec. 15. Playing the two sets of performing paramours are, from left, Jon Libby as Bob, Paul McIntosh as Phil, Jacklyn Grigg as Judy, and Kaitlin McGinley as Betty. (Courtesy photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – Lyric Music Theater, embarking on the second weekend of its production of “White Christmas,” will offer a sensory-friendly performance on Saturday, Dec. 15.

The Robbie Foundation sponsors the performance, a Mainebased charity that helps provide adaptive equipment to special needs children. The organization works with children from birth to age 20, and has provided $350,000 in equipment and therapy to those in need across the state.

“For a community as big as it is, the access to sensory friendly events in the area is really limited,” said Robbie Foundation founder Lynn Gierie. “Lyric is providing a great venue for a safe environment for the kids to come and go as they please in case they get overwhelmed.”

While this is the first time the Robbie Foundation has partnered with Lyric Music Theater, it is not the first time that the theater has provided a sensory friendly performance. Tickets for the sensory friendly performance on Dec. 15 are free of charge to special needs children.

For these performances, the company is sensitive to aspects of the show that may be much for children on the autism spectrum.

“For a performance like this, we remove parts of the show that may be disturbing to kids with autism, like sharp noises and dark lights. For example, if the number had a strobe light, we would cut that out, or if there was a tap number, we would remove the taps off the shoes. Anything to make the kids feel more secure in the theater,” said Director Sean Senior. “Luckily this show is not an effects extravaganza, so not a lot needs to change.”

“White Christmas” is a musical that features the songs of Irving Berlin, based on the 1954 film of the same name starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. In what the Lyric Music Theater website calls a “Christmas card come to life,” the musical tells the story of two army buddies turned performers who follow two singing sisters to the Pine Tree Inn in Vermont. Upon their arrival, they realize that their former army commander owns the inn, and the uncharacteristic lack of snow in Vermont has caused the hotel to fall on hard times. The song-and-dance duo mounts a production at the inn to help, and as the musical reaches its snowy conclusion, love finds all. Notable numbers from the show include, “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” “Blue Skies,” and of course, “White Christmas.”

This is Senior’s first time directing a show solo at Lyric Music Theater, but he has directed at other local venues such as Portland Players and PortFringe.

“It’s a coincidence that this was the show I was asked to direct, because ‘White Christmas’ was the first show I performed in here in Portland,” said Senior, referring to the Portland Players production in 2011.

For Senior, who directs the production alongside Music Director Jaye Churchill and Choreographer April Monte, working collaboratively with such a diverse group of actors has given the musical new life. Lead actors in the production include Jon Libby as Bob and Paul McIntosh as Phil, the performing duo around which the show is based. Their singing sister paramours are played by Kaitlin McGinley as Betty and Jacklyn Grigg as Judy.

“With such a wide span of experience and skill level, we work together to find what rings true to the characters. Sometimes it’s a line read, or an off the cuff joke that brings something new to a scene. They feel comfortable experimenting and trying new things,” Senior said. “We wouldn’t have this show without that freedom.”

Performing “White Christmas” in the arena of community theater holds special meaning to Senior, especially during this time of year.

“It’s fitting that this show is about a community coming together to building something bigger than they dreamed,” Senior said. “This cast is great, and I’ve had a great time working with them.”

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