'King Island' created out of real collaboration

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2001

If you're playing the part of a priest it helps to be a servant of God.

Steve Olmstead, pastor at Chapel by the Lake, takes the stage this week as Father Carroll in Perseverance Theatre's "King Island Christmas."

Olmstead joins more than 130 singers and musicians to bring "King Island Christmas" to life this holiday season. Perseverance teamed up with the Juneau Symphony, the Alaska Youth Choir and a large community chorus to stage six shows this week at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium. The show opens at 7:30 tonight.

For Olmstead, it's the fulfillment of a longtime dream to be a part of the musical production.

"I saw it four years ago at Northern Light (Church)," Olmstead said. "The song 'It is Love,' I first heard that and I thought it would be wonderful to be a part of that."

Although he's done some singing and acting before, he said his work in the church has been his strongest asset preparing for his role.

"I draw from my belief in Christ and my experience," he said. "That song, 'The Miracle of Light,' that takes place as if it's in a service and I'm really able to reflect on lighting the candle of Christ for that song. So both those songs came out of a deep sense of the love I have for Christ and for other people."

"King Island Christmas" started as an illustrated children's book by Jean Rogers and Rie Munoz of Juneau, based on Munoz's experiences teaching on King Island in the 1950s. In the mid1990s, former Perseverance Theatre director Deborah Bailey Brevoort collaborated with New York composer David Friedman to create a libretto and music, transforming the children's story into a musical play.

Perseverance debuted "King Island" in 1997 and this will be the theater's fourth production. It has been done since by theaters around the country.

The story relates the efforts of villagers in a small, isolated community to bring a new priest to their island in the Bering Sea. The priest is stranded offshore on a freighter in a storm just before Christmas and the villagers work together to bring Father Carroll ashore in time for the holiday.

The musical about a close-knit village has several Juneau families working together on this production. Glenn and daughter Leigh Miller both sing. Bill Paulick plays horn with the symphony and his daughter Kristina is a member of the Alaska Youth Choir. Ted Quinn and daughter Sara, and Rick Trostel and his daughter Molly, all share the stage.

In one family, three generations will be singing: Linda Miller is in the chorus and her daughter Nancy Lehnhart and granddaughter Brittany Lehnhart have principal roles.

"The whole household is singing 'King Island' songs," said Nancy Lehnhart. "Since Brittany and I are both part of the villagers, we've been going to rehearsals together for six weeks."

This year's production reunites the original director, Anita Maynard-Losh, with original music director, Sally Smith. "King Island Christmas" composer Friedman again will come to Juneau to conduct.

"David will have the whole thing," Maynard-Losh said. "The whole shooting match is under his baton."

Friedman will unite the entire ensemble. The 18 symphony musicians, the actors and the different choirs worked separately for months, coming together as a group last week for the first time.

"The lines are blurred between principals and chorus, the symphony so it's ceasing to be individual groups and it's part of this bigger thing," MaynardLosh said. "It's a wonderful connection to the piece, people getting together to do something bigger than they could do by themselves."

"King Island Christmas" shows at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. The hour-and-15-minute show is appropriate for ages 2 and up. Tickets are $18 to $22 Friday and Saturday nights, and $13 to $17 matinees and weekdays. Tickets are available at Hearthside Books and at the door.



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