'Probable Claus' – a festive success

Members of the all-student cast perform a scene from 'Probable Claus,' which was staged at RIC on Dec. 2 and 3.

As we embark on a brand new year, and the start of the spring semester, there is one holiday event that I’d like to revisit: “Probable Claus,” presented by RIC’s Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

On Dec. 2 and 3, the all-student cast of “Probable Claus” performed two sold-out performances in Sapinsley Hall. The cast and crew were pleased to know that RIC students, faculty, family and friends all came out to show their support and join in on the holiday fun.

Mrs. Claus (Talia Triangolo) and Santa (Derek
Capobianco) are reunited just in time for Christmas.
The most unique part of “Probable Claus” is that the cast created the musical from scratch. With inspiration and confidence from last year’s original Christmas musical, “The 11th Day of Christmas,” Bill Wilson, director of musical theatre, and Angelica Vesella, director of dance, teamed up once again to create a brand new holiday musical.

Under the direction of Wilson and Vesella, the all-student cast worked together, brainstorming to create scenes, lines, songs and jokes that all had to fit together while still including all of the essential aspects of a successful story for the stage.

This year, the story was a hilarious, who-done-it mystery. Santa Claus has gone missing, and Mrs. Claus plays detective in the case to find her husband. Who took Santa? It could be anyone from Cupid, to Jack Lantern, to the Easter Bunny…even the Tooth Fairy was a prime suspect!

Once we had finalized our show, we were suddenly wondering the same thing many writers and producers do on opening night: Are people going to enjoy what we’ve created?

The answer, in an overwhelming response, was yes! From the first moments on stage, the audience seemed thrilled, showing their approval and appreciation in bouts of laughter and thunderous applause.

To see smiles and hear laughter at what you’ve written is a wonderful feeling! It was in this moment that I could really imagine the great pride and contentment that a creative team must feel when their show is embraced, acclaimed and deemed a success.

After each performance, the cast mingled in the lobby with audience members, family and friends. I personally spoke to many people, and the most popular response about the show was how impressed people were that we created the show ourselves as a team.

Student's capture the whimsy of the Raggedy Ann
dance, as the dolls begin to come to life.
Because of the unique nature of this show, it was important to talk to members of the cast to see how they felt about the show’s success.

“Working on the Christmas show this year was such a great experience for me. Last year, I was always handed the scene and then had to perform it,” said Johnny Vento, a junior theatre major who was also a part of last year’s Christmas musical, “The 11th Day of Christmas.”

“This year, added Vento, "I got more involved and got the opportunity to jump behind the scenes a bit and actually write some of the script. It provided me with new tools, allowing me to grow as a performer in a totally different way.”

Being part of a new original Christmas show provides the opportunity for roles such as Santa Claus to be reprised.

“Being able to revisit the role of Santa was so much fun!” said Derek Capobianco, a junior theatre major who played Santa in both last and this year’s Christmas musicals. “Unless you are a mall Santa, who else gets to say that they were Santa Claus two years in a row? This isn't the first time I've revisited a role, so it was nice to use my previous experience to expand and tweak the role of Santa this time around.”

“It didn't matter about whether or not you were an upper classman. If you were in the show you were a part of the whole cast. It was a great first time experience!” said Aimee-Rose Willett, a freshman music major. This was her first experience in a RIC musical theatre production.

As you can see, the process of creating and performing “Probable Claus” was just another one of the great opportunities the RIC Music, Theatre, and Dance Department offers students.

While we ended 2010 with the success of the Christmas show, the department is back and ready for a new year and new semester, putting their focus on the upcoming encore performance of last year’s musical, “Pippin.”

The cast will stage an encore performance of "Pippin" on Saturday, Jan. 22., in preparation for a performance at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Fitchburg, Mass. on Jan. 26.

I’m lucky enough to be traveling to the festival as an Irene Ryan acting participant, and also to perform as Berthe, in “Pippin.”

Wish us luck as we represent RIC Theatre in the competition!

Check back for an article next semester about our participation and upcoming performance of “Pippin” at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival later this month.