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‘Saving Christmas’ redux: Ellen Travolta and friends bring song, stories and good cheer to Coeur d’Alene Resort

Molly Allen, Ellen Travolta and Abbey Crawford are back this holiday season to perform “Ellen Travolta Presents Saving Christmas” at Coeur d’Alene Resort.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
Molly Allen, Ellen Travolta and Abbey Crawford are back this holiday season to perform “Ellen Travolta Presents Saving Christmas” at Coeur d’Alene Resort. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

There are things that are holiday traditions at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. The Santa cruises. The tree lighting after the Christmas parade. The light show on the boardwalk.

And now, one can consider Ellen Travolta’s Christmas cabaret show part of the tradition.

After taking a break last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Travolta and friends are returning to the resort’s Shore Room for a 14-show run of song, stories and good cheer.

If the theme from this year’s show – “Saving Christmas” – seems familiar, that’s because it is. Travolta made a call for stories on that topic last year, but the show ended up being canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.

“I kept the letters from last year, so I’m using the letters I would have used last year,” Travolta said. “We’re still saving Christmas.”

Along with Travolta, the cast will include her daughter, radio personality Molly Allen, and Spokane cabaret singer Abbey Crawford. The backing musicians this year are Kristina Phillips, principal bassist with the Coeur d’Alene Symphony and a well-known local music teacher, and pianist Jenny Shotwell.

Missing this year is Margaret Travolta, who had a scheduling conflict, Travolta said. (She may show up one night to sing a song or two, her sister said.) As Crawford joked, “I say I auditioned for the part of Margaret Travolta, and that’s the role I’m playing this year.”

This year’s show will follow the same format as in recent years. Travolta and her fellow cast members will share some of their own stories, as well as a few of the submitted ones.

“It’s a sweet show,” Allen said. “There have been years where there have been some heartbreaking, sad stories, but that’s not the case this year. So you won’t need to bring your tissues.”

Travolta said that was by design. “I tried to keep things light,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful show. It’s traditional, it’s entertaining, it’s heartwarming, it’s thoughtful. I like it.”

Crawford is back for her fourth show, and for her, the thing that brings her back each year is the family dynamic.

“They’re amazingly special people, and I can’t imagine my life without them,” Crawford said. “I asked (Ellen), does this make me an honorary Travolta, and she said yes. I finally made it!”

Travolta feels the same way about the embrace of family onstage.

“Abbey is a delight, and my daughter is so magical,” Travolta said. “She always picks a story that I have forgotten about from when she was a kid and makes it into a skit or a monologue, and this year is no different. So everyone will be very pleased at her turn of events.”

Crawford will sing a couple holiday songs and one of her humorous cabaret numbers.

“Because there are the three of us up onstage, it’s as fun as the other years have been, but I’m a little more involved this year,” Crawford said.

In keeping with the “Saving Christmas” theme, Allen – while not wanting to give too much away – does say she will share a story that involves her late stepfather, the actor Jack Bannon, who died in 2017.

“I talk about Jack and how I was always saving Christmas for him because he never knew what to buy, and he hated shopping,” Allen said.

This is her fourth year with her mom’s Christmas cabaret, and she has relished the experience.

“I love getting to spend so much time with my mom,” Allen said. “How lucky am I? She’s 82 years old, and she runs circles around all of us.”

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