This year’s annual PACE Musical Theatre Christmas show, Home For The Holidays, will be available to stream from Dec. 22 to Jan. 4. (Courtesy PACE)

This year’s annual PACE Musical Theatre Christmas show, Home For The Holidays, will be available to stream from Dec. 22 to Jan. 4. (Courtesy PACE)

COVID can’t halt West Shore holiday favourite

Langford-based PACE Musical Theatre comes Home for the Holidays with complex online production

There’s just no stopping these kids from making sure the show must go on.

The annual PACE Christmas concert, a favourite family tradition on the West Shore, is going virtual for the first time.

PACE At Home For The Holidays is ready to roll, thanks to the determined efforts of everyone involved from productions past, present and future, said Sandy Webster-Worthy, artistic director for the musical theatre academy.

“Creating a Christmas show during a pandemic is not for the faint of heart. But through it all, the talent, spirit dedication and commitment of the PACE Musical Theatre Academy students has been nothing short of inspirational,” she said.

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To make the production possible, the stage at Isabelle Reader Theatre – the show’s traditional home – was converted into a makeshift movie set complete with lights, green screens and elaborate settings for the 120 performers, Webster-Worthy said. About half of the show filmed outside at different locations.

“Christmas Hallelujah was filmed at Esquimalt Lagoon on a blustery November day, and the traditional carols were done at night in Veterans Memorial Park in the midst of spectacular lights. The dance numbers were filmed on school fields using a drone camera,” Webster-Worthy noted.

“The artistic team spearheading the production expanded to add two amazing talents, Justin Sealy as the director of photography and Pedro Almeida Siquera as the film editor.”

Choreographers Jennifer Sanders and Nicki Shotton had to come up with creative ways to accommodate camera closeups, while musical directors Taylor Holmwood and Ashley Dovell added music editor to their job descriptions.

“We even tapped the resources of a couple of former PACE students working in the film industry in L.A.,” she said. “Derek Bayham and Calum Worthy graciously jumped in to help with directing, editing and scripting.

“Everyone lathered with hand sanitizer at every turn and we rehearsed the choreography in parking lots, with one student per parking space.”

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Performers maintained social distancing while learning and recording songs in groups of seven students on stage instead of a hundred students or more, as was done in the past.

“They have mastered the art of singing to a single little camera lens instead of an audience of 300 and learned how to smile at a drone in the sky while they dance.”

The show features a mix of old and new that will appeal to all ages, Webster-Worthy said.

“There are traditional favourites like Silent Night, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and some fun new ones as well, including an environmentally-themed 21st-century version of Deck the Halls. We also changed the lyrics to Be My Guest from Beauty and the Beast to “Wash Your Hands.”

PACE At Home For The Holidays is available to buy online until Dec. 21 at rmts.bc.ca. COVID-19 has increased the ticket cost to $25 to cover the additional expenses of a virtual production.

“But now the whole family can watch it from Dec. 22 to Jan. 4 in the cozy comfort of their home every day through the holidays for the old price of two adult tickets,” Webster-Worthy said, adding with a laugh, “or 186 times if they like.”

rick.stiebel@goldstreamgazette.com