By Jim Eastin
Sevier County has a new Christmas show. The opening night of the Thomas Kinkade Christmas of Light show was Sunday, November 1. On that warm drizzly evening, only one night after trick-or-treating, it seemed a bit of a stretch to draw a crowd into the Christmas Spirit. After the first 20 minutes, however, that is exactly what had happened.
From the title of the show, one might have expected a two-hour long infomercial, but that feeling was soon lifted. The show was infused with a tribute to Thomas Kinkade and his work, but the sales were left to the gift shop. In the theater, the art simply set the mood and provided a backdrop to an actual Christmas show. including seasonal favorites and some very nice original music.
The cast was small but talented. Daniel Emmet is a baritone with an exceptional voice who sings in Italian, French and English. Rachel Robinson is a soprano who has wonderful vocal clarity and sweetness. Chris Lockwood brings swing and instrumental chops to his performance. And Kai Vilhelmsen both narrates the show and tells us the story of artist, Thomas Kinkade. A talented band provides the live music while other lush orchestrations were recorded for the show by the Prague Symphony. Gary Baker, the Grammy Award winning producer and musical director, wrote many of the new Christmas songs featured in the show and also acted as the band leader. During the second part of the show he impressed the audience by singing three of his own hit songs, each of which was instantly recognized and appreciated by the audience.
The show moved along quickly but the pace of the musical numbers never felt rushed. While the artists performed, huge visuals of the paintings, displayed in continually moving close-ups and full views lent a sense of grandeur to every scene and enhanced the overall experience of the music. The huge videos become another performer on the stage and allowed one to appreciate the fine detail in the Kinkade paintings. Even those who are not fans of his work can see the care with which each license plate on each car was carefully lettered and numbered.
There are no dancers in the show but because of the constant motion of the visuals, dancers are completely unnecessary. The room itself seems to dance – a very hard thing to accomplish in the Smoky Mountain Palace, which is a very large theater. All three stages were used with the center stage reserved for the vocalists, one side stage for the band and the other side stage used as a living room set from which the narrator talks about the life of Thomas Kinkade.
The show ran about two hours with an intermission and ended with a large ensemble finale’ and a light snowfall on the audience. Afterward, overwhelmed by scenes of snow and Christmas music, everyone left expecting to walk out into a blustery night with snow on the ground and clear bright stars in the heavens, but it was only November 2 and warm light rain was still falling.
The Thomas Kinkade Christmas of Light is playing 8 shows weekly including matinees on Tuesday and Saturday at the Smoky Mountain Palace on Collier Drive in Sevierville, TN. Tickets start at $29.00. Call 800 926-6077 or visitwww.ThomasKinkadeChristmas.com