In her role as a cruise ship entertainer 1,700 miles from home, Misti Koop reminisces about the Christmas season in “The Holiday Show,” which opens Friday, Nov. 26 at the Empire Arts Center, 415 DeMers Ave.

The show runs Friday through Sunday, Nov. 26-28, and Dec. 2-5. Performances begin at 7 p.m., except Sunday shows, which start at 2 p.m.

The production is based on her own experiences working on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship during the Christmas holiday season, and missing family and traditions when she was some 1,700 miles from home.

In the two-hour show, Koop is joined on stage by other cast members: Katie Germain, Walter Criswell, AnneMarie Brack, Paul Tandberg, Mila and Marko Drago, and Emma Lyste.

As she pines for the things that make the holidays special -- family, food and traditions -- she is joined by the North Dakota Ballet Company; the UND Low Brass Ensemble, directed by Joel Pugh, UND music faculty member; and local musicians Mark Diers, Joseph McCauley, Mark Lentz and Matt Fowler, who’ve been dubbed the “Cruise Ship Quartet.”

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

“Even Santa Claus is coming for this family-friendly night of joy that is not to be missed,” said Kathleen Coudle-King, managing artistic director for the Empire Theatre Company.

The audience will be treated to a “Rockette-style” kick-line number by members of the North Dakota Ballet Company and a “very special tuba solo that is sure to amaze people,” Coudle-King said.

Regular theatre-goers in the region may have seen Koop grow up on area stages, she said. “She took her talent on the road as a professional musician and performer after graduating from UND with a master’s degree in theatre arts.”

Koop performed with the “Medora Musical,” the touring company of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and, in 2013, on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, “Epic,” which serves as the setting for The Holiday Show.

The show “is a bit like those charming ‘60s and ‘70s TV holiday shows, which brought the entire family around the TV set in the living room. There’s music, dancing, story telling and a few cheesy jokes. We wanted to create an event that would showcase the incredible local talent we have in this region, be family-friendly, and also affordable,” said Coudle-King, who asked Koop if she’d be interested in having a show built around her.

After she agreed, Koop immediately recalled memories of the Christmastime when she was working on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean, so far from home.

“I loved performing on the ship, and I adored my cast members, but I missed everything that makes this time of year so special: the food, finding the perfect gift for people you love, decorating the tree, singing in church, and especially my family.”

So she set to work creating a script that would evoke similar memories for the audience, she said.

Attendees can get their pictures taken with Santa Claus in the lobby after the show.

The Holiday Show is co-produced with Alerus Financial and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, with grant support from the North Dakota Council on the Arts, which received funding from the North Dakota Legislature. This program is also supported by a grant from the city of Grand Forks Arts Re-Grant program, through the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region.

Tickets are available by calling the Empire Arts Center at (701) 746-5500 or visiting . Tickets are: $26 for adults; $21 for students with valid ID and seniors, age 62 and older; and $19 for children age 12 and younger. Groups of 20 or more receive a roughly 15% discount; reservations should be made by calling the Empire Arts Center. Seating is limited so the audience can social distance, if they choose to do so, said Coudle-King.