You don’t have to wear a 10-gallon hat, cowboy boots and sport a western accent if you want to enjoy “Christmas on the Prairie,” but it’ll sure make you fit in when it comes to small town Texas in 1882.
Crossroads Community Covenant Church will play host to a production of “Christmas on the Prairie” this month, with proceeds from $5 ticket sales going to food baskets for families in need.
This is the church’s third run of the musical, said director, writer and producer Pat MacNealy, who has championed the recent upgrades to the show.
“This one we did six years ago and we’ve upgraded it. This is one of the most requested ones we’ve had. People would call up, ‘When are you going to do the western one? When are you going to do the western one?’ and so we’ve added a bunch of stuff to it and added special effects, some gunslingers and all sorts of things,” MacNealy said.
The story centers on a small town in the 19th century. Endearing yet naive Katie comes home from college and immediately falls in love with the tough and toting soon-to-be pastor Caleb one night. Katie boasts to her family and the town about her new-found love, unaware that many of them have mistaken him for a gunslinger up to no good.
Caught in their preemptive dispositions toward Caleb, the town overlooks the real gunslinger, Slick Willy, a thief who looks to steal riches from the town by Christmas by appealing to the town’s notions that he’s the new preacher.
At its core, the story is a sincere Christian comedy. But MacNealy said there are more avenues than just that.
“It’s basically just don’t judge a book by its cover,” he said.
MacNealy said the story and all the characters come to a head at the end with a shootout between Caleb and Willy. A few other twists and turns will keep the audience entertained and busting with laughs, MacNealy said.
The musical also incorporates modern pieces of work, such as The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” and Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” A five-piece musical outfit, headed by MacNealy on guitar and banjo, propels the story forward.
Krysti Kober, who plays Katie in this year’s production, said she enjoys how the musical portrays basic tenets of Christianity without getting too deep in the woods.
Having never acted outside of the two Crossroad productions she’s been a part of, Kober said it’s been a fun experience to learn from her time at rehearsals.
“It was so fun to be surrounded by people that support you and help you, regardless,” she said. “It becomes a family.”
Kober describes the story as akin to that of a modern coming-of-age tale.
“She’s a little naive. She essentially goes into the forest and falls in love with a complete stranger,” Kober said, describing the scene with Caleb, who is portrayed by Rob Mohrweiss. “In my mind, it’s my Disney fairytale.”
Mohrweiss described Caleb as unassuming, yet wholly curious about what the small western town has in store for him.
“He’s trying to get a feel for the town people before he announced he’s the pastor … He’s got a plan,” Mohrweiss said. “It’s the message of you can’t take a book just by its cover. We can always look at someone and make false assumptions.”
Emily Hagen plays Dottie, Katie’s best friend and a resident “expert on men.”
“It’s kind of a reunion of best friends,” Hagen said. “She is so excited to hear about the man of Katie’s dreams. She wants to hear every detail.”
Hagen said she really appreciates the sincere parts of the musical, but also noted how that can be broken with light-hearted humor that’s been overwhelmingly well received.
“I also like that it’s so much about family,” she said. “It’s an iron-sharpens-iron kind of thing.”
Debbie MacNealy, who helped her husband co-write the story, plays Molly in the film.
“It’s just fun. It’s a fun story, touches on the nostalgia of those of us that grew up on westerns,” she said.
So far, the show has sold about 600 tickets, and MacNealy said he expects this production to be by far one of the church’s best.
Every year for the past 12 years, Crossroads has put on a December production hosted at its place of worship near Four Corners. The intent every year has been to raise food for families in need, MacNealy said.
“It’s special because it’s Christmas time and everybody here has been here practicing since September,” MacNealy said. “They work full-time jobs and they’ve been here sometimes until 10 at night rehearsing. They’re all doing it because, one, it’s fun, and two because when they walk in here and see this place filled with food baskets and Christmas baskets for people, it’s pretty awesome.”
Shows are scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 11, 13 and 14. There will also be a 4 p.m. show Dec. 14 and a 3 p.m. show Dec. 15.
Crossroads Community Covenant Church is located at 11520 Bald Hill Road, Yelm.
To purchase tickets, call 360-400-7877 or visit the office, which is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.