On a mission to save Christmas

Janice Holst's new version of 'Grumpsicle' takes the cast around the world

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2001

The CIA has teamed up with Santa this year to save the world from the Grumpsicle.

The CIA - Christmas Intelligence Agency - is part of this year's production of "The Grumpsicle," the annual holiday dance pageant put on by the Janice D. Holst School of Dance. The production will be staged twice this weekend, at 7 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday in the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium.

Holst has staged the "The Grumpsicle" since the early 1970s when she taught dance in New Jersey. She brought the show to Juneau when she moved to Alaska about 25 years ago. Each year the villainous character tries to ruin Christmas, creating the thread of a story that runs through the roughly two-hour production. This year the Grumpsicle is after two of Santa's helpers.

"Fred X and UPZ are two characters that are traveling the world and the Grumpsicle is on their case all the time and his mischief gets them into trouble," Holst said. "They take care of problems for Santa; and the head of the CIA, Christmas Intelligence Agency, is another of Santa's special links."

About 35 dance routines highlight the talents of Holst's 100plus dance students.

"It's lots of scenes hooked together," said dancer Katrina Cook-Edwards, 15. "They have scenes in different countries - Mexico, Russia, China. There's a Mexican hat dance and the little girls do a tap dance with sombreros."

The cast ranges from age 4 to adults. Page Bridges is one of the adult dancers. She's taken jazz and ballet classes from Holst for five years and said the ballet is helping her arthritis. This is her first "Grumpsicle" production. A painter, Bridges also worked with several parent volunteers on a set piece for a Russian scene.

"Grumpsicle" is renowned for the behind-the-scenes group effort that takes place every year. Scores of parent volunteers build sets, sew costumes and cook meals for the intense week of rehearsal prior to opening night.

"There are moms and dads in the scene shop," Holst said. "We glitter, glue and paste, getting everything ready. Even people that don't sew are putting a needle in something."

Seven mothers sat sewing in a semicircle Monday night in the backstage studio at the JuneauDouglas High School theater department. The JDHS commons, auditorium and hallways were a flurry of activity.

"These are all the last-minute touches," said Olive Endicott, surrounded by boxes of costume accessories. Young dancers warmed up the studio, including two of Endicott's three daughters. "The glitter, the ruffles, the sparkles, the sequins the mothers sew all the finishing touches."

A few minutes later, Endicott was on her feet directing a run-through of "Cotton-eye Joe," a dance number that includes her daughter Amanda.

Louise Howeter has been involved with the show for more than 20 years. Not only is she a volunteer parent behind the scenes, she's been on stage as Mrs. Claus since 1980.

"My children danced with Janice, my grandchildren danced with Janice, and now my foster children dance with Janice," she said.

Holst draws on a variety of music for the dance numbers, from patriotic fanfares to the classic "It's a Small World." "Small World" is prominent in this year's show and complements the international theme.

"We're going to end with a salute to America and the world, singing, 'God Bless America,' " Holst said. "Santa Claus is going to unite the whole world."

Tickets to "The Grumpsicle" are $7 for all ages, in advance at Hearthside Books and at the door.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.

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