The holidays in Houston mean a busy time for the city’s theater stages, but while productions as “A Christmas Carol” or “The Nutcracker” are venerable favorites, the season’s best offering cannot be found downtown this year.

In fact, for newcombers of the Main Street Theater – Chelsea Market, you might be surprised how many times you’ve passed this amazing playhouse and missed it.

“A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration” features an ensemble theatergoers can only dream of watching as they take audiences into a bitterly cold and divided nation on Christmas Eve 1864. An escaped slave and her daughter are split up as they flee for freedom in Washington D.C., where President Abraham Lincoln toils hours before taking a reprieve from the war. All the while, men adorn in blue and gray are encamped in a blanket of sleet and snow alongside Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.

See Scenes and Interviews from “A Civil War Christmas” Below!

Bringing history to life onstage, the cast of “A Civil War Christmas” draws audiences into the raw emotional and physical struggles of slaves and soldiers with engaging performances and moving music direction by Michael Mertz. If you only see one show this season, it must be “A Civil War Christmas.” Troy Scheid directs the regional premiere of Paula Vogel’s amazing musical.

Portaying Decatur, a slave-turned-Union solider, Shawn Hamilton delivers a breathtaking performance in his Main Street Theater debut. Watching Hamilton struggle to shake the ghost of his wife Rose (Crystal Rae) from his mind is as moving as their relationship together, seen in flashbacks throughout the production.

Rae pulls double duty as the mother of a Jessa (Leila and Liliane Moon), a slave girl who escapes captivity and gets separated from her mother on the road to the nation’s capitol. Rae’s portrayal of Hannah will move the spirit and the waterworks as her greatest fears are realized.

Rachel H. Dickson‘s portrayal of Elizabeth Keckley, haunted herself by the loss of her own son (Brandon Balque), command the stage in both song and performance. No greater warmth nor range will be seen on any Houston stage outside Main Street this Christmas.

Jonathan Teverbaugh also brings a memorable performance with impeccable comedic timing.

Recommended for ages 13 and above. Some scenes may be difficult for younger, sensitive audience members. “A Civil War Christmas” plays through December 22, at Main Street Theater – Chelsea Market, 4617 Montrose Blvd. Tickets available at http://mainstreettheater.com, by phone at 713-524-6706, and at the box office.

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