When John Fagan and Joe Wehunt set out to create a rock ’n’ roll Christmas show, they discovered enough material for four or five revues.
“Joe and I sat down and started listing all the Christmas songs we liked and ended up with about a hundred,” Fagan says.
The two whittled that list down to fill a two-hour show and the result was “Rock ’n’ Roll Yule,” opening at Centre Stage this Thursday for 16 performances through Dec. 17.
The Christmas concert, featuring eight singers and two dancers, takes the audience on a high-energy tour through several yuletide favorites, along with a few rarities, says Fagan, director of the show.
“We basically wanted to give people a great evening of music and singing,” Fagan says. “We just put together some songs and music that we really enjoy, and I think everyone else will enjoy them, too.”
Powered by a five-member rock band under the direction of Wehunt, the show offers rockin’ takes on familiar tunes such as “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Merry Christmas, Darling,” “Do You Hear What I Hear” “The Christmas Song” and “O, Holy Night.”
“We dug up some funky older things as well,” Fagan says. He mentions, as an example, a lesser-known Louis Armstrong tune, “Zat You, Santa Claus?”
The show features mostly ensemble numbers in various combinations, along with a few solos, Fagan says. Kimberlee Ferreira is choreographing the show.
“Rock ’n’ Roll Yule” has very little dialog and no real storyline. It’s all about music and a mood — joy.
“The story we’re telling is one of pure joy,” Fagan says. “We really wanted to embrace the joy of Christmas.”
Fagan, the longtime artistic director of the Upstate Shakespeare Festival, is best known for staging the classics but he has an equal love of musicals. Among his credits was the Kander and Ebb revue “And the World Goes Round” a few years ago at Centre Stage.
Fagan says “Rock ’n’ Roll Yule” came about due to an offhand remark he made to Centre Stage executive and artistic director Glenda ManWaring last year.
“I opened my big mouth to Glenda and said, ‘You know, you haven’t done a rock ’n’ roll Christmas show,’ and she said, ‘OK, you’re doing it.’ ”
Fagan says he readily agreed.
Response to the show already has been so strong that Centre Stage has added extra performances, including some Wednesday evenings and Saturday matinees.
“I couldn’t happier with the cast and musicians,” Fagan says. “It’s really come together beautifully.”
Arts writer Paul Hyde can be reached at 864-298-4004.