City Circle Theatre to premiere original cabaret-style performance for Christmas

A Christmas Cabaret is an original musical about getting Santa Claus out of his quarantine blues before he cancels Christmas. The City Circle production features a variety of musical numbers and genres, and will be available to stream on Dec. 18.


Photo from the City Circle Theatre Company’s ‘A Christmas Cabaret.’ Contributed.

Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

City Circle Theatre Company hopes to bring its audience out of the pandemic blues by doing the same for Santa Claus with a musical variety show, A Christmas Cabaret, which premieres on Dec. 18.

An original performance written by actress Katie Colletta, who also directed and appears in the show, A Christmas Cabaret will feature several musical numbers performed by Santa’s helpers in an attempt to cheer up Santa, whose Christmas spirit is dampened by COVID-19.

The show features several musical styles, including a rap rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” a comedic number about fruitcake, as well as classic carols and show tunes. Colletta said she thinks even holiday cynics will find something in the production to enjoy.

“I love that you get to see a wide variety of songs,” Colletta said. “It really makes it personal to the artists who are involved.”

Keegan Christopher, who plays an elf alongside spouse Colletta, said that cabarets provide a unique opportunity for artistic expression.

“In a true musical, it’s very hard to combine genres,” Christopher said. “It’s very rarely done successfully. With a cabaret-style show, as long as it’s got a good script to tie everything together, you can experience a lot of different styles within a similar theme. I think audiences really like that.”

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Colletta and Christopher have some experience pleasing audiences with a cabaret show. The couple hosted Songs To Make You Smile, a virtual cabaret that premiered on April 3 to benefit five theater companies in Iowa facing financial uncertainty because of the pandemic.

The duo’s hosting gained the attention of City Circle Artistic Producer Elizabeth Tracey, who asked Colletta if she would be interested in hosting a similar event for City Circle.

Photo from the City Circle Theatre Company of ‘A Christmas Cabaret.’ Contributed.

However, Colletta had even bigger ideas.

As she worked on the show, Colletta said she realized it could be an opportunity to embrace what people have faced during the pandemic instead of shying away from the subject.

“The idea that it would just be a series of individual performances blossomed into a full-length, fully developed show that uses a cabaret format,” Colletta said. “Honestly, this was kind of me working through some of my own feelings about the pandemic. Some of the things that the characters say are very personal to me.”

There were also logistical benefits to facing the reality of COVID-19, like not needing to fabricate a reason for elves wearing face masks or why Santa needs his spirits lifted.

Tracey said a cabaret-style show made it possible to safely cast 23 performers. Actors were only present in-person for their numbers. Between recordings, the theater was cleaned before the next performer arrived.

Lighting effects, sound design, costumes, and a set were all created for the show, which has been a challenge during COVID-19. Tracey said the only thing missing is a live audience.

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“We hope that we can virtually reach people and convey that we’re still here and we miss them,” Tracey said.

Although she’ll miss the feeling of a live opening night, Colletta said this show has made her appreciate moments that she often overlooks.

“I kept reminding myself through this whole process to be in the moment,” she said. “For this show, I was very cognizant of the fact that we might have to close down. In a way, it was freeing to be like ‘I’m going to enjoy absolutely every single second of this, because tomorrow is not promised.’”

Tickets for A Christmas Cabaret are available through Coralville Arts’ website.

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