Chattanooga Now 'A Civil War Christmas' blends history and holiday music

Chattanooga Now 'A Civil War Christmas' blends history and holiday music

December 12th, 2018 by Staff Report in Chattanooga Now - Art

"A Civil War Christmas" presents a series of interlocking scenes distinguished by historic events and traditional songs. The cast includes, from left, Gabriel Bailey, Nicole Coleman, Katie Campassi, Cora Grace Williams, Brandy Johnson and James Frost. (Photo by Brad Cansler)

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

If you go

› What: “A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration”

› Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.

› When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, Dec. 14-15, 21-22 and 28-29; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 15, 22 and 29; 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 16, 23 and 30; 7 p.m. Thursdays, Dec. 20 and 27

› Admission: $23-$30

› For more information: 423-267-8534

A dramatic blend of history and traditional song will be brought to Mildred M. Montague Circle Theatre when "A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration" opens Friday, Dec. 14, at Chattanooga Theatre Centre.

Set on Christmas Eve 1864, the play's series of interlocking stories weaves fictional and historical characters — such as President Abraham Lincoln, Generals Lee and Grant, John Wilkes Booth and Walt Whitman — together with holiday music, hymns and spirituals of the period to tell a story of compassion, reconciliation and hope.

As the story opens, Americans are preparing for the holiday as best they can — Union and Confederate soldiers, slaves and freemen, as well as inhabitants of the White House. President Lincoln has recently won re-election, and preparations are underway for his second inauguration. But the country is still divided by war, and troops on both sides are hunkered down for a cold night with little hope of peace.

The story continues with Mary Todd Lincoln and her companion, freewoman Elizabeth Keckley, attempting to secure a Christmas tree, a new fashion imported from Germany. But there are no trees to be found; they have all been cut down for fires to warm the troops.

On one side of the Potomac, the president defies his security and rides alone on the streets of Washington, D.C. On the other side, an escaped slave hurries her daughter toward freedom. Beyond the city, Robert E. Lee and his increasingly disarrayed Confederate troops and Ulysses S. Grant with his marginally better supplied Union soldiers face hardships on the winter night.

But when the ensemble's voices join together in song, there arises from these stories a deep sense of wonder at the survival of faith and humanity even in hearts ravaged by loss.

"A Civil War Christmas" is under the direction of Todd Olson, with guest musical direction by LaFrederick Thirkill, who also appears in the show.

The cast includes Gabriel Bailey, Chris Barr, Becky Byrns, Katie Campassi, Nicole Coleman, James Frost, Brandy Johnson, John McCune, Alexis Newson, John Nichols, Lee Preston, Kimberly Reynolds, Christian Smith, Allie Stafford and Cora Grace Williams.

For tickets, visit the Theatre Centre box office at 400 River St. next to Coolidge Park, call 423-267-8534 or purchase them online at