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Play hitches up Christmas fun, yule tunes
By Donald MacPhail

A feel-good festive tale featuring classic Christmas songs is promised in “Holiday Hitch,” the latest production by Shanghai-based writer and performer Apphia Campbell.

The story of two actresses in New York trying to find the holiday spirit when an unexpected new friend arrives will have audiences bopping along to soulful yuletide numbers by the likes of Mariah Carey and the Jackson 5, says Campbell.

It’s all very different from her acclaimed one-woman show “Black Is the Color,” which had a sell-out run in Shanghai earlier this year, before playing in New York and returning to the city for a short stint last month.

Inspired by the life story of American music legend Nina Simone, “Black Is the Color” tackled issues such as domestic abuse and racism as a musician explores her life following her father’s death.

“Yes, ‘Holiday Hitch’ is certainly very different,” says Campbell, a native of Sarasota in Florida, who has lived in Shanghai for more than three years. “I wanted to do something that was light and fun, something that wouldn’t be compared to ‘Black Is the Color’.”

“Holiday Hitch” is Campbell’s first attempt at writing comedy, and she admits that it was a challenge. “You write something and think it’s funny, but then you think, ‘What if other people don’t find funny what I find funny’?”

Joining her in bringing festive cheer to Anken Green Rooftop Events Space on Huai’an Lu are co-stars Cecilia Garcia from London and Kevin Maxim from Atlanta, Georgia, the United States.

Actress, travel writer and drama teacher Garcia recently appeared in the musical “Rock On! Halloween” in the city, while fellow Shanghai newbie Maxim has worked with R&B artists Angie Stone and Mya and gospel star Kim Burrell, and is recording an album here.

“I love working with Kevin as his voice is quite high and mine is quite deep, so they complement each other really well,” says Campbell.

And, of course, there are the songs; long-time favorites including “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” are featured alongside slightly more recent classics, such as Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

The original meaning of Christmas is not forgotten, either, through carols such as “The First Noel.”

While she’s busy bringing a festive show to Shanghai, what is Campbell hoping Santa Claus will bring her this Christmas?

“Well, we’re looking to take ‘Black Is the Color’ to the Edinburgh Festival next year, so if Santa could help, that would be great.”

“Holiday Hitch,” a Play The Spotlight production, runs from November 28 to December 1 and December 5-8 at Anken Green Rooftop Events Space, 668 Huai’an Rd (near South Suzhou Rd). Tickets are available from Big Bamboo outlets for 150 yuan (US$24.50) in advance, or for 180 yuan at the door.

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