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Aurora Theatre celebrates the holidays with 'Christmas Canteen'

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Photo: David McGregor Taryn Janelle peforms along with Brandon O'Dell, Kahryn Berrong and Courtney Godwin during a recent performance of the Aurora Theatre's Christmas Canteen 2012 in Lawrenceville.

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Photo: David McGregor Brandon O'Dell and Kathryn Berrong sing during a recent performance the Aurora Theatre's Christmas Canteen 2012 in Lawrenceville.

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Photo: David McGregor Kathryn Berrong performs during a recent performance the Aurora Theatre's Christmas Canteen 2012 in Lawrenceville.

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Photo: David McGregor Brandon O'Dell and Kathryn Berrong perform a skit during a recent performance the Aurora Theatre's Christmas Canteen 2012 in Lawrenceville.

IF YOU GO

• What: “Christmas Canteen”

• When: Opens 8 p.m. today, runs through Dec. 23

• Where: Aurora Theatre, 128 Pike St., Lawrenceville

• Cost: $30 to $40

• For more information: Visit www.auroratheatre...>

LAWRENCEVILLE -- If Christmas shopping, the Lenox Square tree lighting or the seasonal commercials haven't gotten you in the holiday spirit, the Aurora Theatre is here to kick you into high gear with its 17th annual "Christmas Canteen," which opens today.

The staff and cast are excited about this year's production, especially Associate Producer Ann-Carol Pence.

"More fun than ever, more Christmas than ever," she said. "In a year when our community has helped us with an enormous fundraising campaign, 'Canteen' is the sincerest way Anthony (Rodriguez) and I can show our deepest appreciation. By supporting us, you have already made our dreams come true."

For nearly two hours, the audience is taken through several genres of music to embrace the holiday tidings. The cast of six, Kathryn Berrong, Courtney Godwin, Taryn Janelle, Eric Moore, Jevares Myrick and Brandon O'Dell, sing (to the live music performed by AC and The Canteens), dance and act out holiday movies to evoke nostalgic memories.

They start with introductions before delving into songs like, "Jingle Bell Rock," "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain."

Before you know it, the group has brought you into rock 'n' roll, which is set in a '50s diner, singing The Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman" and Bill Haley and His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock."

As an Aurora tradition, people come back year after year to get in the giving mood, including Chris Greene of Duluth.

"I've seen every Christmas show for the past eight years and every one is different; it's exciting," she said. "I love it when they put the '50s and '60s (music) in there, along with the military tribute. I would never miss it."

The second act is a military tribute because when the Aurora first created the show, it was based around World War II with scenes set in a bombed out farmhouse in France and other various locations. But after so many years, the writers and performers were ready to expand the show and music to cover a larger variety of tunes. "Christmas Canteen" isn't a military show anymore, but the tribute after the intermission includes pictures of local patrons, friends and family who have served over the years.

First-timer Carole Ebert of Lawrenceville enjoyed the show because of its variety.

"I love it. It's a little bit of everything," she said. "A lot of it brings me back into the '60s '70s, and I like that. My age era is probably what it's geared to."

It was also Grace Privette of Dawsonville's first time at "Canteen." She left reminiscing about holidays of the past.

"The energy, the music and the nostalgia bring back all of those wonderful Christmas feelings," she said.

The show is appropriate for all ages and Greene believes everyone should come to see the musical.

"It's a Christmas show for everybody with some comedy," she said. "It's a great way to start the Christmas season. Everyone should see it."

To give back during the holidays, the Aurora has a Festival of Trees in its lobby, which supports both the United States Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive and local food banks. More than 30 trees are decorated by local businesses, and attendees are encouraged to cast a vote for their favorite tree with a new unwrapped toy or a non-perishable food.

Shows have been sold out Dec. 2, 5 and 12 (at 10 a.m.).