Oakland Center to stage traditional Christmas show

By Guy D’Astolfo

YOUNGSTOWN — The Oakland prides itself on offering to theatergoers the complete opposite of the traditional holiday play.

But not everybody wants to see “How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas.”

So this year, the downtown theater company noted for taking the path less trodden is offering “My Grown Up Christmas List,” a musical revue designed to be relaxing, family-friendly and ... traditional. It’s even offering cookies and cocoa in the lobby.

Rob Joki, the visionary behind “Drag Queen,” also is directing “Christmas List.” He explained the reasoning behind the new show.

“The Oakland recognizes that not all of its patrons want to see a drag show at Christmas,” he said. “Some would rather see something more traditional. Some would like to see both. We try to offer something for everyone.”

“Christmas List” features five performers who will sing contemporary holiday songs. Each one also will give a short monologue, telling a personal story that answers the question “what does Christmas mean to me?”

The answers will range from religious beliefs, to love of family, to admiration of the spirit of the season.

Joki, who came up with the idea for “Christmas List,” called it a cabaret-style show.

Performers will sing solo as well as in groups, and some of the numbers are choreographed.

The cast includes Shawn Lockaton, Nicole Zayas, Marisa Zamary, Alecia Sarkis and Joki.

“I wanted to offer a production that was a little more laid back and traditional than ‘How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas,”’ said Joki. “Something relaxing and beautiful that we could do a little closer to Christmas. The drag show is a lot of fun but it is a huge undertaking, and afterward, as a performer, I am generally exhausted and void of holiday cheer. I think our audience members will relate. It’s easy to become caught up in getting ready for Christmas, and when the day actually comes, we find ourselves too worn out to enjoy it. ‘My Grown Up Christmas List’ was born out of a need to look beyond the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, to take a breath and remember why we put out so much effort.”

Added Joki, “I’ve also been looking for an excuse to get this group of great singers together for a live performance.”

Songs will include “O Holy Night,” “Mary Did You Know,” “Once Upon a December,” “The Prayer,” “Breath of Heaven,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Merry Christmas Darling,” “The Christmas Shoes,” “Lonely This Christmas,” “My Grown Up Christmas List” and “Santa Baby.”

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