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Channeling Christmas in the August Heat
by Stephen Becker 31 Aug 2011

It’s tough to imagine Jack Frost nipping at your nose during this brutal summer heat, but some North Texas actors have to do that for a project requiring some holiday spirit.


It’s tough to imagine Jack Frost nipping at your nose during this brutal summer heat, but some North Texas actors have to do that for a project requiring some holiday spirit:

KERA radio story:

It’s 103 degrees outside and Sara Shelby-Martin is wearing a red Christmas T-shirt with festive cartoon characters.

SHELBY-MARTIN: “Since I didn’t have my Santa hat today, I wore my Peanuts Christmas shirt. … I’m pretending it’s cold outside. I’m pretending it’s very cold outside.”

Bob Hess

For the last two hours, the Dallas actress has used all of her acting training to summon even the thought of Christmas in the August heat. She’s been recording a swinging 1960s version of “Sleigh Ride” at a studio just west of downtown Dallas.

The song will appear on Holidazzle: Act II, a holiday CD produced by DFW Actors Give Back. The non-profit group is the brainchild of five friends who are all involved in the North Texas theater community. The album will benefit Jonathan’s Place, an emergency shelter for abused, abandoned and neglected children.

Bob Hess is the president of DFW Actors Give Back.

HESS: “Actors basically are of very limited means. Actors tend to live from paycheck to paycheck. And as far as charity work – we have great hearts, but we don’t have a lot to give, because of the limited means that we have. And we thought, we have all of these amazingly talented people – is there someway they could give their talents back?”

Hess is co-producing Holidazzle: Act II. The follow-up to 2009’s Holidazzle features a who’s who of North Texas musical theater actors, including Julie Johnson, Denise Lee and Liz Mikel.

By November, eight theaters will sell the disc at their box offices, with the performers often present hocking the CD themselves.

But there’s a lot of work left to do before that happens. You might think recording songs that we’ve all sung since childhood would be a cinch.  But capturing perfect three-part harmonies and crystal clear lyrics can be kind of a chore.

Eventually, the “Sleigh Ride” glitches get worked out, and the singers gather with the producers around the soundboard to listen to the finished vocals. A big applause welcomes the last few notes.

The effort is worth it, and helping out a charity is just one of the benefits.

Yolonda Williams is a Dallas actor and musician, who sings on “Sleigh Ride.”

WILLIAMS: “We’re all not in the same shows all the time. This is really cool – you get to see everybody at the same time. … It’s like a huge reunion.”

The session may be wrapped, but Williams and her “Sleigh Ride” partner Sara Shelby-Martin say the song is leaving with them.

WILLIAMS: “As soon as you’re done, it’s the only thing you can think about. It’s the only thing you can hear when you leave, and I know I’ll be hearing this for the next couple of days.

MARTIN: “Yep, I’ll be tingalinging all night long.”

WILLIAMS: “That always happens!”

MARTIN: “Yep.”

Consider it extra ammo for fighting the heat.

Photo outfront: Goodwin Avenue snowfall, courtesy of Henley Quadling

  • Gayle

    Which 8 theaters will be selling Holidazzle Act 2 in November?

    Please respond to my email address.

    Thanks! Gayle