One again, Ellen Travolta is gathering friends and family to put on a holiday show at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.
As is tradition, there will be songs. And probably a few wisecracks. Stories, too. Can’t forget the stories.
But there’s a twist this year. The stories aren’t Travolta family tales, at least not all of them. Thirteen were culled from hundreds of stories submitted by Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area residents.
This twist in the “Christmas With a Twist” show won’t change the essence of the annual holiday cabaret, said Troy Nickerson, who is directing for the third time.
“It still has the same flavor because Ellen puts together her show, and it’s definitely has her style,” he said. “What’s nice about the community stories is it unifies us. We all have those stories. We all have those Christmas stories that become legends.”
Travolta winnowed the submissions down, aided by her sister and co-star Margaret Travolta. Many stories, Travolta noted, touched on similar themes.
“So we had to pick out of similarly themed stories, ones that were a maybe a little quirky, a little different,” Travolta said. “They run the gamut. They’re all very sweet, very different stories.”
The stories are brief – the longest might be 3 minutes, Margaret Travolta said – and are spread throughout the show.
In past years, Travolta and her sister have shared stories about Christmases of their childhood. This year, the family stories are coming from the next generation: Travolta’s daughter, Molly Allen.
“Adding Molly to the mix for the first time this year, she takes on the part of telling Travolta family stories, about her childhood and what Christmas was like for her,” Nickerson said.
So Molly’s getting to tell on her mom a bit, huh? Travolta laughed. “It’s a favorite pastime,” she said.
The stories this year will be interspersed with a music by Spokane cabaret singer Abbey Crawford, with musical accompaniment by Carolyn Jess on piano and Eugene Jablonksy on stand-up bass.
“She’s really good, and it’s a nice balance,” Travolta said of Crawford.
Her sister added this marks the first time she’s worked with Crawford and is finding the experience enjoyable. “She’s adorable. I really like her a lot. She really fits in,” Margaret Travolta said.
Crawford is “doing a lot of Christmas stuff. A lot real classics,” Nickerson added. “It’s such a nice thing between the stories, it gives the show a nice flow.”
He added, “I think it’s going to be a nice show this year. It usually is. It’s just so sweet and comfortable.”
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