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Laughing in the Holiday Season
Alpine Theatre Project presents “Yuletide Affair 9” on Dec. 17 and 18
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Aaron Vega, N’Kenge, Ryan MacPherson, Eden Atwood, Tracy McDowell and Sharin Apostolou | Contributed photos
The holiday season is full of traditions, and for nearly a decade in Whitefish, mid-December brings a familiar custom of laughter and holiday spirit on the stage.

Alpine Theatre Project presents its ninth-annual Yuletide Affair, a variety show that will take place Dec. 17 and Dec. 18 at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center. The show begins at 7 p.m. each night.

Luke Walrath, executive director at ATP, said the Yuletide Affair is one of the most popular shows the theater company puts on. Each of the previous performances has sold out, he said, and this year is likely to have the same result.

One of the reasons the show is so popular is that it’s different each time the performers take the stage, Walrath said.

“It changes every year; the format’s different every year,” Walrath said. “It’s a completely new show.”

The Yuletide Affair typically strings multiple acts and songs together with a general theme; last year’s theme was based largely on the birth of Walrath’s and his wife Betsi Morrison’s twins, who were born several days before the show.

Previous themes have included mimicking holiday specials from the 1960s and 1970s, Walrath said, giving the performers some latitude to present their acts.

“We’ve tried to vary it from year to year,” Walrath said. “We wanted to provide a spin; holiday shows, they’re traditions, but we don’t want it to get stale. We don’t want to present the same show to the audience every year.”

Audiences can also expect fresh performances from local favorites and artists who fly in for the show. This year’s event will also be different from previous years because ATP is branching out from the musical genre and adding some jazz and opera, Walrath said.

Ryan MacPherson, who has performed with the New York City Opera and in ATP’s Master Class, and Sharin Apostolou, a three-time Met Opera audition finalist and a regular in the Portland opera, will be part of this year’s show.

Jazz artist Eden Atwood, of Missoula, will also take part in this year’s show, Walrath said.

Other artists on the playbill will include ATP artistic development director David Ackroyd; Betsi Morrison, who works at ATP’s artistic director; Tracy McDowell, who has performed in Broadway’s “Rent;” Rob Mosher, an award-winning saxophone and woodwind player and composer; N’Kenge, whose resume includes Broadway’s “Sondheim on Sondheim” and “Motown: The Musical;” Kim Steiner of Broadway’s “Nine” and “High Society;” Billy Thompson, an award-winning composer and musical director; Aaron Vega, who has previously performed in ATP’s “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Godspell;” Erica Von Kleist, a New York City jazz and Broadway reed player; and Don Caverly.

There will also be a special appearance from Mike Eldred, who has experience on Broadway and is a recording artist as well.

Another popular aspect of the Yuletide Affair is the theater company’s willingness to poke fun at nearly everything, including themselves. Walrath said this year’s election will certainly feature in the comedic sections of the show, and other local issues that have occurred this year can expect the same treatment.

“We always try to mix it up every year with some really wonderful heartfelt songs and really bring in the Christmas spirit but then we also try not to take ourselves too seriously,” Walrath said.

Overall, Yuletide Affair is about having a good time during the busy holiday season, Walrath said, and taking some time to laugh and appreciate a Whitefish tradition.

“We want the whole thing to be fun,” he said. “We don’t want it to get too sappy; we want it to be fun or the audience.”

For tickets to Yuletide Affair 9, go online to www.atpwhitefish.org or call the Alpine Theatre Company’s box office at 406-862-7469 (SHOW).
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