‘The Happy Elf’ Nice List: Meet choreographer Cristina Sohns Williams
“The Happy Elf” is a musical comedy by Grammy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated composer and lyricist Harry Connick, Jr. The show follows Eubie the Elf, one of Santa’s helpers who wants to spread Christmas joy to the town of Bluesville, a place that’s straight-up miserable.
The production process has been underway for months, resulting in nearly 90 actors, from kindergarten age to adults and from local areas, being cast in September.
We caught up with several other busy “elves” – those who have been working tirelessly on the show to make it one of the most spectacular, unique, and heartwarming productions to cross the Cultural Center’s stage – and created a series called the “Nice List” to introduce them to the public. Check back all this week for Q&As with the crew members – next on the list is choreographer Cristina Sohns Williams.
NEPA SCENE: If you were one of Santa’s elves, what type of toys would you most like to build?
CRISTINA SOHNS WILLIAMS: If I were an elf, I would build stuffed animals. My son Michael and I love stuffed animals. You can never have too many.
NS: What has been your previous theater experience?
CSW: I have been performing in and choreographing musicals for 28 years. I am the choreographer for the Dunmore High School Crimson Company and the North Pocono High School Odyssey Players. I also teach at Marywood University for the dance minor, and I am a choreographer for their pre-professional company, Dance Elan. I owned my own dance studio for 28 years (Cristina Sohns Williams Studio of Dance), but currently I teach for the Abington Heights Civic League Dance Academy, the Creative and Performing Arts Academy at the SCC, and the Linn McDonald School of Dance.
NS: How many numbers have you put together for this spectacular show?
CSW: I had to choreograph 12 dance numbers. Many are with the full cast and a few with just the leads.
NS: Do you have a favorite dance from the show?
CSW: I have two. First is “The Wow Song” because I have cast members in the audience and on stage dancing. Some have tambourines, a couple of the girls are doing flips. “Wow” is so upbeat and full of energy. Second is “Bluesville.” It’s more of a contemporary dance and features the trained dancers.
NS: You have to choreograph a huge amount of people. What’s it like working with such a large group, doing both small and large numbers?
CSW: Thank goodness I have experience working with a large cast. There are only one or two numbers where the cast is doing exactly the same thing. I had to choreograph it in sections because of the levels of dance ability. Some of the numbers have a lot of great things going on at the same time.
NS: There are so many Christmas tales out there this time of year. What sets “The Happy Elf” apart from the rest?
CSW: The music is great. Harry Connick, Jr. wrote a fabulous musical, and I am thrilled that I was able to choreograph this production.
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, practicing poet, adequate photographer, and podcast co-host. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.