Broadway veterans bring the sounds of Appalachian folk to the Lowcountry

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comNovember 3, 2011 

  • Christmas Up the Holler runs from Nov. 10 to 13 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.

    Shows are at 8 p.m. Nov. 10, 11 and 12 and 2 p.m. Nov. 12 and 13. Get tickets by calling 843-842-ARTS or visiting


The holidays typically sound the same from year to year -- familiar Christmas carols heard nonstop on the radio or piped in the department store. But every now and again a new sound comes along that can put a fresh feel on the familiar.

A cast of Broadway veterans is bringing a show to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina they hope can provide a new perspective on the holidays, using nothing more than the subtle sounds of Appalachian folk.

"Christmas Up the Holler" runs Thursday to Nov. 13. The show, produced by arts center regulars, tells a Depression-era tale of family togetherness for Christmas. This will be the first time the show has been put onstage.

"It's a different take on a Christmas story," said co-producer Kevin Duda.

Duda, a ensemble member of the Broadway hit "The Book of Mormon," got involved with the project through his arts center ties to D.J. Salisbury, who has directed numerous productions at the Hilton Head Island theater.

Salisbury got the idea for the show after attending a concert of Appalachian carols arranged by musician Larry Moore.

Arrangements of "I Wonder as I Wander," "Children, Go Where I Send Thee, "People Look East" and other standards are the centerpiece of the arts center's story of a family reuniting on Christmas morning in the coal- mining country of rural Kentucky.

Duda and Salisbury cast actors with Broadway credits to their names -- including musicals such as "Smoky Joe's Cafe" and "Sweeney Todd" -- and who can sing and play their own instruments. The songs will be sung with the accompaniment of dulcimer, banjo, harmonica and instruments native to Americana music.

Duda first heard a version of the show at a reading in New York City. A Roman Catholic who goes to church every Sunday, Duda said he was drawn to new versions of the songs, some that were familiar, most not.

"We get lost in the 24 hours of Christmas carols that we hear during the holidays, but I saw that show and was struck by some of the songs that I had never even heard before," he said.

The show was reworked, and Duda and Salisbury settled on hosting the show at the arts center, figuring the Lowcountry would welcome a down-home Christmas.

"It's a bit different, but I'm betting audiences will be swept away," he said.

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