Staging a Christmas ‘Wish’: Local youngsters part of holiday musical at Dutch Apple

By on November 28, 2018

While waiting through auditions, Kelly Ann Lynch wished every child could be cast in the 2014 Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre’s holiday show.

“I knew many of the children there and asked them which Christmas song he or she had prepared for that audition,” said Lynch. “One after another, each had a different song (and) I knew that not everyone could be cast in the show.”

So, she approached her own kids — Christopher, then age 16, and Erin Mary, then age 13 — with the idea of creating a Christmas cabaret to feature the children who were not cast in the Dutch Apple production. The event, which features youth creating, choreographing, and starring in a unique Christmas tale, was a success and is now entering its fifth season.

“It was a spark from the Holy Spirit. We sold out every year, so this year, we decided to do two nights,” said Lynch.

As of press time, tickets for the Sunday, Dec. 9 show are sold out, but tickets remain for the Monday, Dec. 10 show.

Telling a new tale every year, “Wish” this year follows the story of a local family who is volunteering at a local soup kitchen. While working with the homeless, the family discovers through song what it means to be homeless and reflects on their family history and Christmas traditions.

The show goes back in time to the height of European immigration to the United States and looks at the traditions of Italian, Irish, and German immigrants. Back home, the family is tucked into their beds, but the anxious children encounter a group of Santa’s elves. The elves help the children understand what it means to believe, and the parents tell the story of the first Christmas.

As the Nativity comes to life, the family realizes that Jesus Christ was a homeless baby, much like their ancestors who emigrated from Europe and the people they helped feed at the soup kitchen.

“We are all more alike than we are different,” said Lynch.

Camryn Niven

Seven-year-old Camryn Niven of Denver plays one of the homeless children in “Wish.” A familiar face to the local theatre community, Niven has been seen in EPAC’s “Wizard of Oz” and will perform in the upcoming “Marry Poppins Jr.” in February. In “Wish” she is also an elf, a hippopotamus (in “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”) and a sheep.

“Santa Claus comes when I am the sheep,” said Niven, who took a few minutes out of her busy rehearsal schedule to talk about “Wish.”

“We sing songs,” said Niven and then burst into a verse from “Jingle Bell Rock.”

The show features 27 songs from traditional holiday numbers like “Joy to the World” to fun-inspiring ditties like “Trashin’ the Camp” from Disney’s “Tarzan” and several dance numbers, including a special performance by Encore Dance Company.

Piper Sobon

“I’m more of a dancer, but I also sing in ‘Wish,’” said 13-year-old Piper Sobon of Lititz.

Her favorite Christmas song is “Jingle Bell Rock.” As part of the ensemble, Sobon will sing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Trashin’ the Camp.”

“I play many different roles. I have lots of costume changes,” said Sobon, whose favorite costume in “Wish” is the angel. “It’s very flowy and pretty.”

Piper Sobon

Sobon has been part of “Wish” for the past four years. Niven said she enjoys Christmas shows over more traditional theatre.

“You get to do Christmas stuff and hand out Christmas presents. I get to help a little bit with the presents,” said Niven, referencing the “Wish” mission to provide presents and Christmas cheer to local families.

Mychal’s Message

When they first started “Wish” the Lynch family decided to tie the event together with their ministry, Mychal’s Message, as a benefit. Mychal’s Message is a non-profit organization created to honor the life of Father Mychal F. Judge who “shared his message with the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick. His message was simple, interdenominational, and touched many lives.” The Mychal’s Message mission is to encounter the homeless and poor to meet basic needs while restoring dignity with love.

“Mychal’s Message has provided and outlet for people to give. Our mission is to encounter. We don’t want to just send a check somewhere,” said Lynch.

Proceeds from “Wish” helps provide Christmas to 33 families (with 93 children) in Lancaster County. Besides presents for the children, each family receives a Christmas meal delivered on Christmas Eve.

“All of us get to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. It’s such a fun experience. I love to see the joy on their faces,” said Sobon.

“Wish” was created by Lynch’s immediate family, but many have come together to make the production successful.

“People everywhere want to give. Their hearts are pure,” said Lynch.

The response from the theatre community was extraordinary, said Lynch, as many professionals stepped forward to donate their time and skills to the project.

“Everyone just said yes,” said Lynch. “Even Penn Cinema opened the theatre for us to come in and show the DVD of ‘Wish’ so the kids who performed could see it.”

One of those donating their skills is Lynch’s mother, Sharon Hickey, who at age 71 oversees creating all the costumes for the show.

“My mom is responsible for costuming all children and teens in the show,” said Lynch. “This year she created 37 elf costumes in addition to costumes for homeless people, immigrants, the Holy Family, wise men, shepherds, animals — and even the Statue of Liberty.”

“Wish” runs Sunday, Dec. 9 and Monday, Dec. 10 at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in Centerville. Buffet dinner begins at 5 p.m. with the show starting at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit dutchapple.com/our-shows/special-events or call the box office at 717-898-1900.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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