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Christmas show at Coeur d’Alene resort a family affair for Travoltas

Margaret Travolta, Jack Bannon and Katherine Strohmaier with Ellen Travolta pose at the Coeur d'Alene Resort Shops in Coeur d'Alene on Monday, November 21, 2016. They’re all part of “The Christmas Show,” which opens Friday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Margaret Travolta, Jack Bannon and Katherine Strohmaier with Ellen Travolta pose at the Coeur d'Alene Resort Shops in Coeur d'Alene on Monday, November 21, 2016. They’re all part of “The Christmas Show,” which opens Friday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The theme is family.

The words “cozy” and “friends” and “cheer” are frequent descriptors.

Once again, Coeur d’Alene actor Ellen Travolta is teaming up with her sister, Margaret; husband, Jack Bannon; and musician friends Katie Strohmaier and Scott Steed for the annual holiday show at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

Titled simply “The Christmas Show,” this year’s Travolta production harkens back to the 2014 edition, “I Remember Christmas.” It features a combination of songs – Strohmaier sings a medley of popular holiday music for children, for instance – and stories.

A couple of the stories will be familiar to those in the audience two years ago – like the time Margaret Travolta saved her money to buy her father a color television, or when Ellen Travolta’s gift to her youngest brother John was a roundtrip plane ticket from New York to Philadelphia.

(John Travolta, by the way, is expected to pop in to see his sisters’ show at some point this season, his eldest sister said.)

The sisters will talk about the records they both cut when they were young, and they’ll share stories of the people who lived in their Englewood, New Jersey, neighborhood when they were growing up.

Strohmaier, who grew up in Lewiston and who got her first professional gig with Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre in 1999, is now based in Seattle. The singer and teacher – she’s on the adjunct faculty at Cornish College of the Arts – said she didn’t think twice about returning for a second round of the show.

“Why not? I walked in and I felt like I was home,” Strohmaier said. “It feels like home for a lot of reasons. A little bit because it’s Idaho, and I know the area, and being with Jack and Ellen and Margaret obviously. It sounds like a stock answer, but it’s absolutely not. It feels like family.”

She’ll pair up with bassist Steed for “The Christmas Waltz,” as well as “My Favorite Things” and “Christmas Time Is Here,” a Vince Guaraldi song from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

“It’s a sweet, kind of jazzy ballad,” she said.

Margaret Travolta, for one, is happy to let Strohmaier do the bulk of the singing. She’s eager to dive into the storytelling aspect of the show. The Coeur d’Alene resident who built a career as a voice actor and who later worked as a supporting player in movies such as “High Fidelity,” “Ocean’s Thirteen,” “Catch Me If You Can” “While You Were Sleeping,” said she was “absolutely” happy to return.

“It’s just so much fun,” she said. “And I don’t know that I would do it without Ellen and Jack and Katie and Scott. We’re so comfortable with each other. There’s no nerves. Everybody knows we’re all going to do our jobs and its all going to be wonderful.”

Even though her sister is producing the show, the two Travoltas did collaborate on “The Christmas Show” somewhat. “Everyone has a voice,” Margaret Travolta said. “She gives us creative license to bring to the table whatever we think will work.”

Bannon, too, enjoys the comfort level of the annual holiday performance.

“It’s more of a gathering than, say, ‘Let’s put on a show,’ ” Bannon said. “It has been fun in the past, and I hope it’ll be fun this,” he added with a laugh.

For Ellen Travolta, who is doing this show for the fourth year, she loves the family that gathers to put on the show each year. Not just Bannon and her sister and Strohmaier and Steed. Director Troy Nickerson is back this year, and they’re getting technical support from lighting tech Michael McGiveney and sound tech Scott Martinez. (McGiveney, coincidentally, is a former classmate of Bannon’s who moved to Coeur d’Alene in 1995.)

“We have a Christmas family who gets together to do this show,” Ellen Travolta said. “And it’s a pleasure. It really is fun.”


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