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The Carolina Civic Center of Lumberton, which has been home to many performances, has welcomed culture- and art-based performances since 1928. Though, in 1928, it was known as the Carolina Theatre, a silent film house. In 1975, the Center was closed and set for demolition. However, it reopened in 1985 due to the efforts of community members. Yet, it was not until 2009 that the Center regained popularity and was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Since then, the Center has maintained full performance schedules and displayed films for public viewing, with one of the biggest events of the year being the highly popular Robeson County Christmas Show.
Despite the near 40-minute delay, this past Friday, The Robeson County Christmas Show featured performances from dancers and singers of all ages. The Center was decorated for the holidays, with two Christmas trees on either side of the stage. One tree was decorated with Raggedy Ann dolls and the other was decorated with teddy bears. They each had presents underneath them and a nutcracker standing behind them. Above the stage, a lighted wreath was hung and glistened as projected lights moved across the wall of the Center. The lights would change color and shape as the audience members waited for the show to begin. The visual display of decorations and Christmas trees immersed the viewers in a feeling of Christmastime, home, and family.
The pre-show featured a silent act that performed several magic tricks. Since the show had not officially started, audience members were moving around and finding their way to their seats. The Center has multiple ushers and workers who showed each attendee to their seat and were available to help them with any issue that they may have had. The friendliness of the hosts and the workers provided a sense of security and intimacy between them and the audience members. This allowed for the show to resemble more of an at-home movie night rather than a formal event and gave the audience members a stronger level of comfortability in the Center.
The first act of the show featured an outdoor-themed background on the stage. Several Christmas trees, a sleigh, and overhead lights added the illusion of the outdoors to the show. The first act consisted of dance sequences, solos, duets, and group song performances. The songs performed were well-known Christmas songs. When singing, the performers would often be accompanied by backup dancers or a simple screen in the background that played a video or displayed a sequence of photos that were meant to enhance the experience. The use of video and/or background dancers gave the performances a sense of completeness and emphasized the lyrics, it also added an intense visual experience for the viewers.
Each of the performers, though confident in their abilities, often had trouble with their mic; feedback could be heard during the performance, causing slight disruption during the show. The mic issue remained present and unresolved through the conclusion of the show. The microphones seemed to be the beginning and end of the difficulties. Lighting, music, and video were all consistent throughout the duration of the show and worked effortlessly alongside the performers. Unlike in some performances, carpets were not used on the stage to help with sound. Instead, beneath the speakers present on either side of the walls, there were audio panels placed underneath the speakers. Audience members were able to hear everything clearly, including any announcements, dialogue, and songs as they were being sung.
In addition to the solo and group performances, a bell sequence was performed by the silent performer. The bell sequence encouraged and ultimately required audience participation, particularly the young children who were shown how to play certain bells to recreate a popular Christmas jingle. In order to carry out the bell sequence effectively, children were brought on stage one-by-one and given a particular bell. Once, the silent performer had enough children for each of the bells, he instructed them to play them in a certain order. The children, doing as instructed, were able to recreate Christmas songs by following the direction of their silent leader.
In contrast to the Act I, Act II featured a faux living room display, which included a fireplace, staircase, Christmas tree, presents, and several chairs scatted about. Much like the first act, Act II consisted of various performances out dance sequences and solo or group songs. However, the second act also featured a dancer who performed a robotic Nutcracker sequence with no dialogue. There was also a juggling routine and a balancing act in which the silent performer carried out presents.
The previously mentioned bell sequence was not the only time in which audience participation was encouraged. During the second act, two audience members were brought on stage for "Santa Baby." Performers could also be found in the aisle of the Civic Center during the show as they brought audience members into the walkway.
One noticeable difference between the second and first acts of the show was the use of color versus white lighting. The first act used more colorful strobe and flashing lights during the performances while the second act featured more white and less active lights. The second act also consisted of more religiously based songs, which were saved for the very end of the show. These songs included hymns and traditional carols familiar to the audience. During the final song, the audience was encouraged to stand and sing along with the performers as they closed out the show.
The Center encouraged audience members to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, but multiple members of the audience could be seen with and without a mask and the performers did not wear masks. Proof of vaccination was not required.
The Carolina Civic Center will continue to host the Robeson County Christmas Show through Saturday, December 18. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.