Christmas at St. Ambrose

By Kelly Steiner

Princess Ann is a tomboy princess. Ted E. Bear is a teddy bear that’s a little rough around the edges. Jack is a jack-in-the-box that can’t quite time it right. What do they all have in common? They’re characters in the musical “Toy Camp,” which will be performed by St. Ambrose students this holiday season.

The 13-member cast will perform the children’s musical to an estimated 7,000 people this year on the Galvin stage. This is the first year they’ve performed “Toy Camp,” and marketing manager Eileen Eitrheim said she thinks people will be thrilled, even though they may not recognize the play.

She describes it as a combination of “Toy Story” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

“Sometimes you have to take the road less traveled if you want to reach your destination,” she said describing the play’s theme.

In the play, toys must go through Toy Camp to become certified to belong to a child. However, each of these toys has something to overcome before they can meet that goal.

“Most kids can relate,” Eitrheim said, adding that they always try to make the children’s musical educational. “The message is a great message for kids. It’s often a first theater experience.”

The cast puts on private showings for area schools, and two public shows in the beginning of December.

Eitrheim likes the Christmas musical because it gives theater students a chance to try something new.

“It’s a show that’s done for children, so it’s a different type of theater,” she said.

The play is written with children in mind. The play is only 45 to 60 minutes long to fit young attention spans.

Eitrheim said classes are given lesson plans and activities to go along with the play, adding that she wants schools to feel like they’re getting something out of the play.

The actors and actresses have little time to prepare for performances. Rehearsals started in mid-October, and performances begin in early December. To make up for lost time, the cast is giving up much of its Thanksgiving break to make sure they bring their best to the stage.

While the amount of dedication may seem wildly ambitious to many, it’s nothing new. The theater department puts on a children’s musical every holiday season, following a similar schedule.

“It’s been a tradition that’s been around for many, many years,” Eitrheim said.

And it’s a tradition that’s not only for grade school students.

Alumni and their families are invited to the Saturday public performance, and after the play children can participate in a wide variety of activities from musical chairs to cookie decorating.

“It’s really a great, spectacular time to reconnect,” Eitrheim said, adding that many families return year after year. Some even keep coming after their children are grown.

Another tradition Eitrheim will keep this year is the Christmas tree in the lobby of Galvin. Each year, the tree’s theme ties in with the children’s musical, so this year it will obviously be decorated with toys.

But another Ambrose Christmas tradition is changing this year.

The music department hosts its Christmas Showcase Concert annually, but for the first time, it won’t be held on campus. Having outgrown the Galvin theater and due to a scheduling conflict, the music department has moved the concert to the Adler Theater in downtown Davenport.

They’re making the best of the situation, and many seem excited.

“It’s great to be in a facility that’s busy,” Eitrheim said, adding that the borrowed space will give performers more room, meaning less time between acts. In addition, the Adler has been remodeled recently and will have excellent acoustics.

The Christmas Showcase Concert has become a staple to St. Ambrose. Nearly every musical group on campus performs a Christmas piece, from modern pieces to classics. Whether you’re a fan of jazz, symphonic band or chorales, they have it all.

“It’s such a popular thing. People love it,” Eitrheim said, adding that many describe the concert as what gets them in the Christmas spirit.

If you want to come support the talented actors and actresses in “Toy Camp,” come to the Galvin Theater on Dec. 7 or 8 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for faculty/staff/alumni/seniors, $7 for non-SAU students or children, and free for SAU students. They can be purchased at the Galvin box office.

The Christmas Showcase Concert will be held Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Adler Theater, 136 E. 3rd St., Davenport. Tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for children and students, and free for SAU students. Tickets are available at the Adler box office at (563) 326-8555.

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