Ohio Northern University presents the “Holiday Spectacular.” It is a big annual holiday event that showcases ONU’s students’ talents and kids from the surrounding community’s. It is one of the first major events hosted by ONU after Covid. Even Though restrictions are a little at ease right now, audience members were still asked to wear a mask. The pandemic postponed a lot of performances, school activities and events since the beginning of 2020.

The Holiday Spectacular has been hosted since 1994. This year would be the 27th year anniversary but because Covid put things on hold, they weren’t able to host it in 2020: making it 26 years instead.

Over the course of the performances this year, over 7,500 tickets were sold. Seats were being filled up fast and tickets at different Kewpee locations were sold out due to the popularity of the event. Last minute tickets were available the day of the spectacular but it was first come first serve.

If you wanted to get a sense of what ONU’s Holiday Spectacular is like, According to the Director of Holiday Spectacular Kirsten Osbun Manley says “The Holiday Spectacular is a musical review similar in scope to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.” The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a musical starring the Radio City Rockettes based in New York City.

This year’s spectacular has been known to be the most popular production in history of ONU’s theatre arts department.

Ticket and Programme for the Holiday Spectacular (Trinity Hudgins)

If this is the most popular performance ONU hosts then imagine the amount of work that was put in to make it most popular and successful. The majority of cast members were made up of ONU students but kids from the surrounding communities also got the opportunity to be a part of the Holiday Spectacular. There were 103 cast members including the orchestra.

22 children were selected out of the audition pool out of the 65 children that auditioned in August of this year. The ONU performers had the opportunity to rehearse with those children for 3 weeks. “Performing with the little kids is a lot of fun, and I am frequently impressed with just how focused and committed they can be. They offer so much talent too, so I even find myself envying their ability from time to time! In our opening number, “Christmas town,” they’re all doing cartwheels and backflips like it’s nothing, and that’s just so cool to see.” says Caleb Jingo (Tinsel)

 “They bring such a great energy to the rehearsal room when they come and they really bring the magic of Christmas to life for us.” says Juliana Tate (Trixel)

There were a series of different dancers introduced. There were swing dancers, tap dancers, and ballerinas. A polar bear also made an appearance as a ballerina. Everyone, no matter what role they played, also danced. 

ONU’s orchestra along with the male and female ensemble also carried the performance. There were over 15 songs performed. The amazing voices of the vocalist with the combination of the orchestra brought a joyful feeling to the heart for many people.

There were 7 main characters in the show. Caleb Jingo as Tinsel, Jimmy Lancaster as Frosty, Grace Raber as Mrs. Claus, Selah Schertz as the Ballet Bear, Emily Signor as the Angel, Shawn Stevens as Santa, and Juliana Tate as Trixel. She quoted “I wanted to be a part of this show because I like that it is catered to families and children and the holiday spirit! I am a real Christmas junkie.”

Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in the world. In fact, it has been a federal holiday since 1870. It is the time where families and friends get together and decorate Christmas trees, play games, and exchange gifts etc.

The Holiday Spectacular brought back a lot of nostalgic and happy memories for many of the audience members. Most of the scenes, backdrops and costumes worn made you think about the 50’s. Familiar songs performed during these scenes also brought back warm memories. Some of those songs included: Frosty the Snowman, A Holly Jolly Christmas and Santa Baby.

Popular kids stories were also introduced in the show. Including the Grinch, the Nutcracker, and Frosty the Snowman. Popular characters and nostalgic toys were also a part of the performance. The scenes included dancing toy soldiers, sugar plum fairies, Santa’s reindeer, candy cane dancers and Santa babies.

Most of the spectacular is based on the winter wonderland with Santa Claus but we all can’t forget the reason of Christmas. A whole scene was dedicated to the origin story of Christmas. The nativity was beautifully performed; showing the audience the true meaning of Christmas. The celebration and birth of Jesus Christ. “My favorite part of the show is probably the Nativity scene and the musical number ‘O Holy Night.’ It still gives me chills every time I watch it. I always look forward to the March of the Wooden Soldiers – definitely an audience favorite!” says Director Kirsten Osbun Manley

Audience getting ready and comfortable to watch the performance. (Trinity Hudgins)

To add to the magical fun side of the performance, soapy bubbles were used to make snowfall on the stage. Santa and his reindeers along with the toy soldiers also walked down the aisles in the theater, bringing even more excitement to the audience.

Every Christmas story has a moral to its story. This spectacular had one as well. The moral of the story many people got from this performance was to have faith and be joyful.

Bonding as a family will always be important no matter if it’s in a Christmas story or not. Having a family is one of the best gifts in the world. Blood doesn’t make family, love and loyalty does.

One of the scenes in the spectacular was about the Grinch. The moral of that story is that love doesn’t come with a price tag, be giving and share the spirit of joy. 

Being Grateful is a given when it comes to the holiday spirit. It is shown in many Christmas films and stories. Not everyone gets the same opportunities and or has as much as you. 

Celebrating love during the holiday season is just as important as any other moral. Love is also one of the best gifts. They include quality time with people you love , acts of service and words of affirmation. If love was never involved in the holiday spirit, we would all be cranky like Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol.” Love brightens everyone’s day.

The Holiday Spectacular makes a major impact on the community every year. This has been considered to be a family tradition for decades. Regardless of the age this was put in place for everyone to experience and enjoy.

Going to this performance not only immerses yourself in the local theatre scene, but it puts you in a cheery holiday spirit. It is a great way to do so especially if you haven’t been feeling the holiday spirit lately.

With kids having the opportunity to perform with the ONU members, it also created role models for them. The kids in the audience got a chance to meet and share their thoughts with the cast members in the lobby after the show as well.

Leaving children inspired was one of the main impacts of the show. Juliana Tate stated “I heard from one of the college students who grew up in the area that she remembers wanting to be in the Holiday Spectacular growing up and so being a ballerina in it this year was a childhood dream for her! That really put it in perspective for me this year that the kids really look up to us and we plant seeds in their minds to love the arts early.”

Outside the Lima Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center the night of the performance. (Trinity Hudgins)

The spectacular was performed 6 times in 2 different locations. The first 3 were performed at the Freed Center in Ada from November 18-20th. The other 3 were performed at the Lima Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center from Dec 3rd-5th. Hosting the spectacular also gave the opportunity for graduating seniors to perform one last time in their college careers.

ONU’s Holiday Spectacular is something you want to miss. A family friendly musical with festive carols, nostalgic sets, toy soldiers, ballerinas and Santa. Not only does it warm your heart during the winter season but it also brings joy and inspiration to the children. It never fails to bring the Christmas spirit. 

To stay up to date with upcoming events you can visit freedcenter.com. You can also visit ONU’s Freed Center Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram account.

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