A new take on the true meaning of Christmas

The Gallery School of Music and Dance brings to life Northwest veteran author Donna Anders’ never-performed Christmas musical.

The Gallery School of Music and Dance brings to life Northwest veteran author Donna Anders’ never-performed Christmas musical.

Here’s a new take on Christmas — an original holiday production.

With all the whimsy and pageantry of “the Nutcracker,” the heart-warming humanity of “A Christmas Carol” and the catchiness of actual Christmas carols, veteran Northwest author Donna Anders provides the script as The Gallery School of Music and Dance brings to life “The Princess of the Dolls,” an original Christmas musical, in Port Orchard, Dec. 19.

It’s the story of a little girl and her grandmother finding the true meaning of Christmas through the spectacle of the little girl, Sonja’s, dreams and the story of a grandmother and granddaughter of long ago.

“The contemporary grandmother tells the story as it unfolds on stage,” Anders said. “The granny of long ago is very ill and they are very poor and the little girl of long ago is wishing for Santa Claus to help them.”

Potential spoiler alert: Anders added the three-act play concludes with a happy ending, where the true significance of Christmas is revealed. (I think I may have seen this one before.)

“But it’s also all the magic in the wonderland of a child’s dream of what Christmas really means,” she goes on, “and the magical Kingdom of the North Pole and Santa Claus.”

Later that night, Sonja wakes up to a doll that’s come to life in her room. Naturally, they have a conversation — most likely something to do with the true meaning of Christmas — which leads to more and more dolls coming to life, and thus, Sonja becoming the Princess of the Dolls.

“Putting it together was just a blast, getting to see what everybody has done,” said The Gallery School’s artistic director Kara Morkert. She said The Gallery’s 15 faculty got together to read Anders’ story, get inspired and brainstorm to come up with “every doll you could possibly imagine” — from Barbie Dolls to G.I. Joe action figures to robots and Cabbage Patch Kids.

“Then we divided up the dolls among all of us instructors and started putting together dance pieces and vocal numbers,” Morkert added, and voila — the Holidays on Stage.

“With this play, for me, it’s not about any commercial gain or motivation,” Anders noted. “It’s lighting up the faces of little kids, and maybe giving somebody a different view on the true meaning of Christmas.”

And, in a way, it’s about coming full circle, back to where she started as an author.

“If this isn’t the first story I wrote, it’s close to it,” she said.

Anders has built her life as an author, now living in Seattle. She’s penned everything from short stories, one-act plays, poems and kids programs in her early years, to historical sagas and psychological suspense thrillers more recently. She pulled “Princess of the Dolls” out of her drawer, 20 years later, at the request of her daughter — vocal teacher at the Gallery of Dance and Music, Tina Abeel.

“She always thought that I should write that story into a children’s musical,” Anders said. “But I didn’t have the music background. … She does.”

For the past six years, the Gallery of Dance, a school of music with more than 600 students at branches in Port Orchard and Silverdale, has annually hosted its holiday production as a benefit for the community, taking on a different causes each year, starting with the Port Orchard-based Community and Family Services Foundation.

This year, proceeds benefit a Port Orchard community center building project being taken on by First Lutheran Community Church.

“It’s a just a huge undertaking,” Morkert said of the project, “and it’s been really hard for them because they took this on about a year ago, and then the economy just went nuts. … I absolutely love the vision and the drive, and Port Orchard needs it so badly.”

To that end — advance tickets for “Princess of the Dolls” have already sold out. But The Gallery continues to host big and small productions of everything from classical to abstract, folk, a capella and spoken word to rock and jazz and more, all year long. Its students range from age 2 to adults. Find more information on classes, productions and how to help with the First Lutheran community center project, by visiting The Gallery online at www.thedancegalleryinc.com or by calling (360) 895-9214.