Welcome Back to Leon's! - Original Show Returns to Lofte Stage
“Christmas at Leon’s” debuted at the Lofte Community Theatre in December 2010 and was last produced at the Lofte in 2012. Now, over 10 years later from its original debut, the show returns. The music is by Mick Kovar, with the book by Kevin Colbert and Mick Kovar. The story of Leon’s is simple. It’s Christmas Eve and a busload of troubled passengers seeks refuge at Leon’s Diner while waiting out a snowstorm. With a little Angelic help, the travelers have a chance to reach their destinations with a renewed Christmas spirit.
This year’s “Leon’s” production might look a little different. Where some years we had a pre-show “diner” on the stage, this year there will be an extended concession stand with a holiday turkey sandwich dinner, complete with green beans and potatoes. Along with that, the world has been through changes as well, which is reflected in our socially distanced and open general admission seating. The holidays are busy, and things are stressful, perhaps now more than they were before.
The world has even changed for the cast. Some original cast members have since graduated from college, sent kids to college, gotten married, moved to different states, retired, had kids, and, in some cases, passed on. But some have returned to the production and are happy to be back on the stage. Though the world has certainly changed, Leon’s Diner has stayed the same.
Newcomers to the show include Randy Wallace as Travis Richards and Jon R. Kruse as Henry Thompson, neither had seen the show before being cast in it, but both had been in shows at the Lofte before. Jon is most excited about working with others again and meeting new people! One of those new people is Randy who, like Travis, has been playing the guitar for a long time (in his case, nearly 50 years). He has found the show to be a delightful mix of comedy and holiday warmth with really good music! “You’ll leave the Lofte humming the tunes of Christmas cheer!” he says. Randy has enjoyed rehearsals which have been a mix of working with old and new friends.
Though Randy and Jon were new to “Leon’s”, several cast members had seen the show before they auditioned. Aaron Spracklin, who is playing Eddie, Janet Sorensen, who is playing Margaret Thompson, and Betty Colbert, who is playing Joy, have all had the “Leon’s” experience. Janet finds the show to be the same as it was the last time she saw it, but she’s very excited to be able to in “Christmas at Leon’s!” and loves getting to know the other cast members. “This is a delightful story of redemption and compassion,” Janet says, “told in a humorous and loving way.”
Betty, as seen Leon’s a few times, as her husband, Kevin, helped write the book, and her daughter, Samantha, originated the role of Bell. “It’s been updated and revised for efficiency,” she says, “but I finally had time to be in it, and I love singing with the cast!” She also encourages you to listen to the accompaniment tracks (all original recordings done solely by Mick Kovar) and is very proud of her husband, and the care that has gone into the script. Betty finds her bliss spending time with her two wonderful cats and enjoys playing the piano.
For Aaron, the show is pretty close to what he remembers, but there have been alterations to keep it current. “But I love it,” Aaron says. “Being on stage, sharing a great Christmas story with an audience? That’s a gift in itself. It’s one thing to experience it, but another to live it.” Some of Aaron’s favorite holiday traditions include watching White Christmas with his wife and opening new pajamas on Christmas Eve. The couple is excited to be new parents this spring!
These five actors join other performers who have not been in “Leon’s” before, Piper Monson as Bell, Sara Mattix as Julie Hays, Peyton Banks as Eric Hays, Kody Horrocks as Makenzie Davis, Ross Mumford as Barry (previously known as Holly), and Christopher Jackson as Jonathan. But several actors return to “Leon’s” and return to the roles they had before. Anne Riha will be returning as Becky Richards, Kevin Colbert is again portraying Harold the Angel, and Sheila Hansen will be reprising her role as Marie. Along with them, Scott Pope returns to the role of Nick Hays, and Larry Bauers comes back to the role of Leon.
This will be Scott’s third time playing Nick. He remembers his previous portrayals fondly saying, “despite the stress of getting the show together, there truly was a sense of family amongst the cast and crew at the end of the run.” But this time he has loved getting to know the new cast members and seeing how different people have different takes on their roles. “It pushes me to get better,” he says. Scott says that the show has gotten more refined over the years. “The first year was very special because it was new and exciting! And we didn’t really know what we had until the curtain opened. With the script changes over the years, the characters have been better developed and the overall structure tightened.” Scott travels a lot for work, just like his character, Nick, and he works to apply the lessons that Nick learns to his own life. “Take time. Slow down. Cherish what you have, not always what you think you should pursue.”
For Larry, this will also be his third time as Leon. He previously portrayed Leon in the original production in 2010, and then again in 2012. When he performed the show previously, the best part for him was enjoying the message it gives, but now he’s really happy to be saying the words again. “I love playing the part of Leon,” says Larry. After the show, Larry looks forward to spending his retirement living full-time in a fifth-wheel camper with his wife.
So, if the holidays are so busy and things are stressful, why should you come and see “Christmas at Leon’s?” In short, because the holidays are busy and things are stressful. This show has everything that makes Christmas special, from crazy families to helping complete strangers. It reminds us of the lessons we should remember year-round, not just during the holidays, like be kind to one another, and tell people that you love them, and don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life, and rather than being divided, come together, and get along. And it’s important to cherish each moment, and do the things you really enjoy doing. “Leon’s” is a truly unique Lofte experience and, as of writing, has never been performed anywhere else. The show reminds people of their faith, family, compassion, friendship, and love.
We hope you’ll come and enjoy the show. And we’ll be delighted to say, “Welcome to Leon’s!”