Tonawanda News

December 13, 2013

Christmas on stage keeps Towne Players busy

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Things are looking pretty Christmasy on the Sheridan-Parkside Community Center stage these days.

The Towne Players will finish up their holiday production of “Babes in Toyland” this weekend, followed by their Christmas variety show Dec. 20 at the center. It’s made for a busy, if festive, season for the group.

Director Tim Kordela said the Towne Players’ rendition of “Babes in Toyland” (which opened last week and continues at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday) closely follows the 1961 Disney version of the story, in which the residents of Mother Goose Land are threatened by the evil Barnaby — and Mary (as in, Quite Contrary) and Tom-Tom ( as in, the Piper’s Son) take a group of nursery-rhyme characters into the forest and encounter the mysterious Toymaker.

“It’s definitely a fun Christmas show, without a doubt,” Kordela said.

The show has a large cast, with 23 people taking part, and most of them range between the ages of 4 and 18, Kordela said. It can be a challenge to keep track of all the different characters and cast members, but it’s worked out.

“It’s all come together very nicely,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun ... an adventure, to say the least.”

Savannah Easton appears in the show as Mary Contrary, with Douglas Giordano as Tom-Tom, Tim Bookhagen as Barnaby and, in a gender-swapping twist, Kasia Abramo as the Toymaker.

A week later, the group’s annual Christmas variety show will take place on stage Dec. 20. Last year marked the return of the show — which originally started in 1988 — after a hiatus, and it proved so popular the tradition is now back for the foreseeable future, said director Glenn Jumper.

“This year we have two dance numbers by The Lisa Taylor dance group, ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ and ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ a selection of readings, skits, songs, the usual assemblage,” he said. “It’s a one-time-only thing. This is the only chance to see it.

“We just kind of assemble whatever people come up with and stir it up together. It’s almost the type of thing you’d see on the old TV variety shows.”

A choral group will likely greet those arriving for the show in the hallway, and one member is working a trained dog into the act, Jumper said, adding that you never really know what you’re going to see.

“You never really see how it all comes together until that night,” he said. “It’s all fresh as it happens ... and that’s it, it’s over. It’s a lot of fun, and it kind of gets you in the Christmas spirit.”

The variety show is free, but those attending are asked to bring a non-perishable food donation.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: "Babes in Toyland" by the Towne Players • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday • WHERE: Sheridan-Parkside Community Center, 169 Sheridan-Parkside Drive, Town of Tonawanda • COST: Tickets are $12 general admission, $8 for seniors and students. Bring a new or lightly used clothing item and/or a new toy to benefit the Ken-Ton Closet and receive $1 off each ticket purchased. • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 693-9641 or visit IF YOU GO • WHAT: Towne Players Christmas Show • WHEN: 7 p.m. Dec. 20 • WHERE: Sheridan-Parkside Community Center, 169 Sheridan-Parkside Drive, Town of Tonawanda • COST: Free, but a non-perishable food donation is requested • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 693-9641 or visit