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Aurora kicks off holidays with 'Christmas Canteen'

This is the Lawrenceville theater’s 18th production of the show

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Actors Bryant Smith, left, Lyndsay Ricketson, center, perform during the 18th annual Christmas Canteen at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Monday. The show will run November 29 through December 22. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

IF YOU GO

• What: “Christmas Canteen”

• When: 8 p.m. today, runs through Dec. 22

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

• Cost: $30 to $40

• For more information: Visit www.auroratheatre.com

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Actors Brandon O’Dell, top, Airan Chase, middle, and Bryant Smith perform a musical number during the 18th annual Christmas Canteen at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Monday. The show will run November 29 through December 22. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Actors Lyndsay Ricketson, Airan Chase, Terry Henry, Bryant Smith and Brandon O’Dell perform a 1980’s scene during the 18th annual Christmas Canteen at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Monday. The show will run November 29 through December 22. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Actors Brandon O’Dell and Terry Henry perform a musical number during act one of the 18th annual Christmas Canteen at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Monday. The show will run November 29 through December 22. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Actor Randi Garza performs a musical number during the 18th annual Christmas Canteen at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Monday. The show will run November 29 through December 22. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Actor Terry Henry performs a musical number as Airan Chase, Lyndsay Ricketson, Brandon O’Dell, Randi Garza and Bryant Smith, perform in the background while Ann Carol-Pence, Mark Biering, Jim Stallings and Greg Armijo play musical during the 18th annual Christmas Canteen at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Monday. The show will run November 29 through December 22. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Actors Terry Henry, Akia Sembly, Bryant Smith, Brandon O’Dell, Airan Chase, Benjamin Davis and Randi Garza perform a musical number during act two of the 18th annual Christmas Canteen at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Monday. The show will run November 29 through December 22. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Actors Lyndsay Ricketson and Brandon O’Dell perform an 1980’s scene during the 18th annual Christmas Canteen at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Monday. The show will run November 29 through December 22. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Actor Brandon O’Dell rocks out on his keytar perform during the 18th annual Christmas Canteen at the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville on Monday. The show will run November 29 through December 22. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

LAWRENCEVILLE — Move over Thanksgiving. The Aurora Theatre is gearing up for the next holiday season with its 18th annual “Christmas Canteen.”

“This year, we were inspired by the Rat Pack Era in Vegas, a time where the entertainers owned a room and audiences felt special,” Aurora’s Producing Artistic Director Anthony Rodriguez said. “So raise a martini glass in celebration and be prepared to laugh at the Martin and Lewis-like pairing of Brandon O’Dell and Bryant Smith.”

For nearly two hours, the audience is taken through several genres of music to embrace the holiday tidings. The cast of six, Brandon O’Dell, Bryant Smith, Airan Chase Baker, Randi Garza, Terry Henry and Lyndsay Ricketson sing (to the live music performed by AC and The Canteens), dance and act out holiday movies to evoke nostalgic memories.

The show starts with up-beat versions of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Let it Snow” and “Good King Wenceslas.”

Before you know it, there is a quick costume change for the county and Western portion of the show. The cast sings Christmas songs and fun classics, like “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Sold” by John Michael Montgomery.

Instead of performing hits from the ’50s this year, “Christmas Canteen” decided to tackle the tunes of the ’80s. Dressed in the flashy, bright fashion from the decade, the actors sang Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” — just to name a few.

As the songs change, so do the costumes. When the group performs Motown classics, the ladies wear floor-length dresses while the men wear purple button-up shirts, black pants and cummerbunds.

The cast belts out the Jackson 5’s “ABC” and The Supremes’ holiday rendition of “Baby Love” called “Santa Claus.”

“My favorite part of the show is the music,” Karen Edling of Dacula said. “And Brandon (O’Dell) is a hoot. He could do Don Knotts really well. The presentation of music is so good. I love the mix of comedy and religion.”

Her friend Vicki Frew of Hoschton added, “I just think the cast is so great. I’m so glad I got to see this show.”

The second act begins with 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.

“It was very good, as usual,” Eron Moore of Lawrenceville said. “I’ve seen it as many times as it’s been at this location. And if they left out the military salute, the show would be ruined. My brother and many cousins served in the military.”

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.

“We have had an amazing year, and Christmas is our time to show our love and appreciation for the people we care about and a community that always supports us,” Rodriguez said. “‘Christmas Canteen’ is Ann-Carol and my personal way that we show our sponsors and patrons how much they mean to us.”

“Christmas Canteen” opens today. Shows are sold out on Sunday, Dec. 8, 11 (matinee) and 12.