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Family elements draws performers, audience members to ‘Traditions of Christmas’

Rick Taylor is no stranger to “Traditions of Christmas.”

In the past three seasons, he and his wife played Santa and Mrs. Claus, and he has performed during the “Stomp” segment and as a member of the adult chorus during the Charles Dickens scene.

This year, Taylor’s fourth with the Radio City Music Hall-style show, he’s taking on his biggest role yet – director.

Taylor has been involved with theater since 2004 and has worked on productions for Christian Youth Theater, the Oaks Classical Christian Academy and Northwest Christian Theater. He also teaches theater at Northwest Christian and performed in Spokane Civic Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“Traditions of Christmas” producer and artistic director Laura Little asked Taylor to direct this season’s production.

“I guess my family and I exemplified what the heart of ‘Traditions’ is about: involving the whole family,” Taylor said. “My wife and I do it, and two of our children, of our four, do it with us.”

“Traditions of Christmas” opens at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene on Friday and runs through Dec. 23.

This year, the show features 70 actors, live animals and more than 400 costumes. Taylor credits his creative team for helping him keep it all straight.

Taylor’s wife Beth is the music director, Hannah Bancroft is the stage manager and Joseph Lyons is the kickline choreographer. Sara Thoreson is the kids choreographer, Heidy Cartwright is choreographing the Christmas couples, and Hope Connelly is the show’s costumer.

Now in its sixth year, “Traditions” has become, well, a tradition for many families in the Inland Northwest.

As such, Taylor hasn’t changed too much about the show, save for rearranging the order of a few segments and adding a song to the USO performance honoring the military.

The story of U.S. Army Air Corps pilot Gail Halvorsen, known as the Candy Bomber, which was featured in “Traditions of Christmas” last year, is also being replaced by another segment, but Taylor promises fan favorite segments like a visit to Santa’s workshop, “Stomp,” the monks, the living Nativity and the a cappella “Mary, Did You Know?”

“People are understanding and coming to expect what the show’s about and if we change that too much, then they might not like it as much,” Taylor said. “But I think this is one of the strongest years we’ve had, at least in the four years I’ve done it, and not just because I’m directing. We have some great, great talent going on.”

Folks who come to “Traditions of Christmas” year after year become like family, Taylor said, and he enjoys catching up with them every year.

That family element extends to the cast, and it’s what keeps Taylor coming back to the show.

“The cast is like a family as well to where we spend so much time together and enjoy laughing and having fun,” he said. “It truly is like a family, and that’s what draws myself and my family to it every year.”

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