Hill-Murray is ringing in the season with two holiday shows

Above are the Hill-Murray seniors involved with at least one of this year’s two holiday shows. Seven seniors are involved with both “Almost, Maine” and “A Very Hill-Murray Christmas Cabaret.”

For the first time ever, Hill-Murray High School, which is known for its extensive theater program, is presenting two holiday shows in repertory, which means the two shows will be alternating performances within the same time period. 

“This will be a wonderful learning experience for our students, especially those who wish to continue on in professional theatre,” says Ben Ballentine, the director of both productions.

Ballentine adds that while many professional theater’s in the area have performed shows in repertory, he does not know of any other local high school that has tried it.

“We like to change up our season each year and this was a new challenge,” Ballentine says.

“Almost, Maine” is a quirky romantic comedy that explores love and loss in a remote, mythical town called Almost. The residents of this small town in Maine find themselves falling in and out of love in the strangest ways in this charming holiday production.

According to Ballentine, “Almost, Maine” is the most popular play performed in high schools across the nation. 

“A Very Hill-Murray Christmas Cabaret” showcases the talents of Hill-Murray students through song, dance and comedy. Accompanying them will be professional musicians.

“What’s great about these two shows are that they are wonderful ensemble pieces that feature each cast member equally,” Ballentine says.

He explains that “Almost, Maine” is a series of nine vignettes that each feature two or three students, and “A Very Hill-Murray Christmas Cabaret” highlights each student through either a vocal or dance solo, or as a character in the five-minute “Christmas Carol” skit.

“Almost, Maine” has a cast of 19 students, and “A Very Hill-Murray Christmas Cabaret” has a cast of 27 students. Ballentine notes that 11 students are cast members in both shows, and the 15 technology crew members are also involved with both shows.

Ballentine says that performing in repertory will definitely be a challenge not only for the casts but also the technology and costume crews “who will learn to execute a changeover of sets and band instruments between each show.” 

He adds that the changeover on Saturday, Dec. 17, will present the greatest challenge because “A Very Hill-Murray Christmas Cabaret” will be a 2 p.m.  matinee, and “Almost, Maine” will be presented at 7 p.m., which will leave very little time to prepare the stage for the second performance.

Fortunately, set designer Will Slayden of Century College built one set that can be adapted for both shows.

“There will be rotating platforms that in “Almost, Maine” will be a cabin, while in “A Very Hill-Murray Christmas Cabaret” it could be used to hold our live band or be a stage for a singer,” Ballentine explains.

Even though the set will be the same, the lighting designs for the two shows are very different, which helps create two distinct atmospheres.

Ballentine says that “Almost, Maine” primarily takes place outside under the northern lights, while “A Very Hill-Murray Christmas Cabaret” is a concert of popular Christmas songs featuring singers, dancers and actors. Both settings will be reflected in the lighting design.


If you go...

Both “Almost, Maine” and “A Very Hill-Murray Christmas Cabaret” are family friendly shows with running times of about 75 minutes without an intermission.

“Almost, Maine” performances are Dec. 9, 15 and 17 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 11 and 18 at 2 p.m. Seating for these performances are reserved.

“A Very Hill-Murray Christmas Cabaret” performances are Dec. 8, 10 and 16 at 7 p.m. and December 17 at 2 p.m. Seating for these performances are general admission, and senior citizens can watch the performance for free on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets to both shows can be purchased in advance for a 20 percent discount, or with the purchase of one student ticket to one show you can get one free to the other show. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.hill-murray.org/theatre or by calling 651-748-2417.

By performing the two shows in repertory, Hill-Murray is able to involve more students in the theater program. 

“We put on more shows than any other school in the state. This allows more students to participate throughout the year even if they are involved in other activities. This is part of why our Hill-Murray students are so well-rounded!” Ballentine says with a grin.

The Hill-Murray theater students’ acting season won’t end with the last holiday performance. They plan to participate in the Minnesota State High School League One Act Play competition in January, a middle school play in February and a variety show in the spring.


Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com.



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