After a seven-year hiatus, the celebrated family-friendly theatrical concert “Awake the White and Wint’ry Queen” is back for two nights only at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 20 and Saturday, Dec. 21. It will be shown for the first time at the Van Dyke Performance Space in the Greensboro Cultural Center said Madelyn Greco, who will be playing the role of the Winter Queen for the sixth time in its seventh production.
Musician Renee Henry said that composer Scott Fray is recording music that he has produced to be accompanied by live and acoustic instrumentation. She said the alumni performers include herself on Celtic harp, Bradford Reaves on guitar, Stuart Stanley on vocals, Amber Marlowe on vocals, Nicole King on vocals, Audrey Muck on flute, Faun Finley as a dancer, Madelyn Greco as a dancer, and Ashley Kirkman Price as a dancer. She said that new performers include Neal Holladay on trombone, Jill Bettini on vocals, and Omar Ruiz-Lopez on violin, as well as the Head Spin Hoop Troupe. This group of five fire dancers includes Brittany Isphording, Olivia Nicole King, Amber Land, Mary Tucker and Molly Polypro. Also debuting is burlesque performer Brandy Valentine as “The Autumn Queen,” a role that Greco originated in the first production.
Greco said that all of the characters’ body paint or make-up is done and designed in their style. Painting has to be done on the day of the show, and everyone in the show has a combination of costume and face paint. Greco also designed and produced all of the costumes, and she said while the singers’ robes are just swirls, the dancers’ costumes are much more elaborate. They also hope to have several fully-painted models as greeters, produced by some of the area’s local collective of body painters. Greco’s costume has giant flower petals cascading into a hoop skirt that hides a pair of roller skates. She said she spent 13 years of her childhood training in a skating rink and is comfortable on wheels, especially since she has to dance on the toe-stops of the skates until she glides around the stage.
Greco said the previous performances were at The Carolina Theater, which was a big undertaking with lots of musicians and actors. Greco and Fray, her fellow creator and partner, discontinued the show after 2012. She said it might have stayed that way, but last year they went to see a show in Winston-Salem where some of the principal singers and musicians devoted half of the show to the original songs. They fell in love with the production all over again.
“The Winter Queen awakened us again,” she said.
This year, Greco said they had been working to make it more manageable and felt they had hit upon a better formula. Some performers have changed out just like prior years, so every year is always a little different. She said that this year there would be fewer musicians on stage, as portions of the music are recorded ahead of time. For those who are familiar with the former shows, Greco said everything would sound a little different, but the signature voices and music that make the show remain.
Greco said that Fray had labored long hours to make the musical process more streamlined. She said it would also be a different visual experience. The production will be in a smaller theatre and on a smaller stage than previous years, with video projection supported by Fray’s multimedia skills. Musicians and dancers share space on stage with room for solos, duets and groups to perform freely. The Head Spin Hoop Troupe will be performing with fire props, such as fans and palm torches, and soloist Ashley Kirkman Price will be performing an aerial Lyra act.
Greco, a Pennsylvania native, met Fray at an arts and culture festival. After he painted her, she soon moved to Greensboro, and the rest is history. Greco said they are the only artists to win all five Bodypainting World Festival awards in every category consecutively. They have worked together for 15 years by winning trophies, producing international body painting competitions, judging and teaching their art form around the world. This has become her full-time work with their company Livingbrush Body Painting. Multitalented Fray is a web designer, body painter and music composer. Greco is also an award-winning cabaret/burlesque performer and still performs occasionally.
“I’m really glad we can bring this music back into the season,” Greco said. “It’s not the usual holiday fare. It’s beautiful, and the make-up and costumes will be dazzling, and the music sticks with you. It’s original, homegrown and was literally birthed here in the Piedmont Triad. At this contemplative time of year, we all reach out with joy to offer a great memory for families. In this day and age, our desire to bring this back is building on something that gives it a life both with us and beyond us. I hope the show is here to stay.”
TERRY RADER is a freelance writer/editorial/content/copy, creative consultant/branding strategist, communications outreach messenger, poet and emerging singer/songwriter.