Experience the magic for yourself at The Orlando Repertory Theatre now through Dec.22. Some of the most magical parts of celebrating the holidays this time of year are the traditions that harken back to our own childhoods, reminding us of what it’s like to look at the world through fresh eyes. But with watching the same movies, hearing the same songs, and eating the same foods, what happens when tradition starts to feel redundant?
Creating something original in the Christmas genre is no small undertaking and creating something as timeless as the classics is something few have succeeded at. It was this fatigue of monotony and craving for a challenge that inspired husband-and-wife team Kelvin and Holly Reed to write True North, a Christmas musical with all the grandeur and enchantment of the stories we know and love, but with a distinctive perspective that drives home a message that is certainly not exclusive to the holiday season.
The Reeds had been doing Christmas programs for churches for years, but after a while, struggled to find new ways to present the same old song and dance.
“I mean, that’s literally a line from the show; ‘there’s not a whole lot you can do different,’” said Holly Reed on the eve of True North’s world premiere at the Orlando Repertory Theatre.
With a healthy appetite for ambition, Holly decided she would try to write songs for an original Christmas musical, for which Kelvin composed the music.
“So, we gave it a whirl, we wrote like 23 songs, and it was horrible. It was awful,” Holly said. “But in that process, in trying to tell a new story, I kind of went down a rabbit hole.”
Determined to write a Christmas show she was proud of, Holly began researching the North Pole and learned it’s in Greenland. Upon further research into Greenland’s history, she came across a story about a top-secret military operation that took place there in the 1960s. This tidbit stuck with her and became the inspiration behind the catalyst of our protagonists’ journey.
Ben and Kami are a pair of siblings who are facing conflicted feelings about the holidays after the loss of their mom, and when their dad is called away on a top-secret mission, their adventure to the North Pole to bring him home makes this Christmas one they’ll never forget.
When The Rep’s Artistic Director, Jeff Revels, became aware of True North, he saw it as an opportunity to expand the theater’s accessible programming – as the main character, Ben, lives with sensory sensitivities.
“We’ve had a long history of doing productions that we call our ‘sensory friendly shows,’” said Ashley Willsey, Senior Creative Director of Marketing at The Rep. “So, those are productions that have been modified a little bit – not the whole show overall, but for that specific performance – for people who are on the autism spectrum, or who maybe have some sensory sensitivities; that has long been a piece of our artistic model. And, you know, we’re always looking out for shows or properties that would lend themselves to that.”
Holly Reed says that Ben and Kami’s character development through the story teaches that vulnerability and authenticity are key ingredients in living a joyful life, year-round.
“[Ben] is very authentic in how he responds to things that he doesn’t like, you know, and things that make him anxious,” Reed said, “He’s very, like, out there with it. Kami just bottles it all up and won’t share. At first, she’s trying to fix him. So, it’s really about her learning that ultimately, living more like he lives is really the healthier and better way to live. To be vulnerable and be authentic and let your feelings be out there because people can help you. Whenever you let your hurt show, it’s okay.”
With all that heart and songs that will be stuck in your head through the holiday season, the Reeds and director Richard H. Blake hope to have True North on a Broadway stage in the next few years.
You can witness the spectacle of True North and enjoy The Orlando Repertory Theatre now through Dec.22.