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  • Angela Allyn

Holiday Warmth in Benton Harbor’s Ghostlight Theatre

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

One would not think that Chicago’s theatre scene would stretch two states and around the bottom of the lake, but if you find yourself in Harbor Country, the Ghostlight Theatre, in the repurposed industrial Arts District, has high quality big city theatre in its intimate black box gem of a space. The current family friendly musical production of Eleanor’s Very Merry Christmas Wish is a direct transport from a Chicago production in 2019, and much of the current cast is Chicago based.

Denise McGowan Tracy's original script with music and lyrics by Tracy and Kathlieen Butler-Duplessis has title character Eleanor (Samantha Bonzi reprising her original role) as a rag doll who has been hanging out at the North Pole because a child changed their mind on their wish list and Santa didn’t dare deliver a toy that wasn't wanted. The doll grows up and loves the whole holiday routine, as well as pals, the elves and Mrs. Claus (known as Cookie here and played by Kristen Wielenga) and the Nice Naughty list monitor Clara (a very stylish Maureen Schlie). Still, she longs for a girl, a best friend, of her own. Teen actor Elena Rupp plays the six year old Noelle who writes to Santa for just such a doll. Of course, the show has a happy holiday ending and you can stick around afterwards for Selfies with Santa. The show lightly deals with fitting in, finding your identity and true home and dreaming your dream– and notes that making a wish is not making a plan to make your dreams come true. The plot has a healthy mix of old fashioned values and modern snark (one song notes the beautiful package wrappings will be Instagramable). Pre-show, the elves come out and sing holiday songs with the audience and sit with youngsters in the house and engage in audience participation to pack the sleigh. It's a wholesome musical that clocks in at 65 minutes. The Kehoe Designs set is picture perfect Holiday and has delightful surprises. Huge cheers for costume and wig designer Kevin Barthel whose glittery light up elf hat, vintage baking apron and frosted costumes gives the audience a visual feast that is Elf with a dusting of Bob Mackie. The elves live up to their names: Sprinkle (Trillium Falotico), Sparkle (Sydney Monet Swanson), Shimmer (Laura Gomez), Glimmer (Olivia Wielenga), and narrator Twinkle (Kady Roberts). The fashions in this show hark back to classic Marshall Field windows. And the makeup design of over the top shimmer and green eye shadow is going to inspire my holiday look.

Eleanor’s Very Merry Christmas Wish is playing at the Ghostlight Theatre at 101 Hinkley Street in Benton Harbor Michigan only until December 11, 2022. Benton Harbor’s Arts District is a charming day trip far from crazy crowds so check it out! For tickets and information go to

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