Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir Stars and Composer Discuss This Year’s Magical Special

Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir Stars and Composer Discuss This Year’s Magical Special

Happy holidays! The Christmas season is about spending time with loved ones, waiting for Santa Claus and, of course, festive music. There are certainly a number of acclaimed Christmas movies out there, especially in the throwback 1990s decade, but one could argue nothing beats musical performance when it comes to decking the halls. And on that note, this year’s Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir holiday special is now in its 20th year on PBS, where it’s said to be “the No. 1 primetime holiday show each year.”

Disney and Broadway legend Lea Salonga (Mulan, Miss Saigon) and famed actor Sir David Suchet (Agatha Christie’s Poirot) are the stars this time around, in specials they taped in front of live audiences in Salt Lake City. MovieWeb was recently on-hand for a Q&A session with Salonga, Suchet, and famed composer Mack Wilberg to learn more about this year’s spectacular, as well as other projects they’re working on.

‘I Can’t Remember Your Name, But Good Luck’

You don’t have to be an expert on the December holiday to recognize the handful of iconic Christmas songs, numbers, and stories that make up the Tabernacle Choir production. Composer Mack Wilberg, who leads these powerful and catchy Christmas tunes performed live, spoke to how this year’s end result was significant in comparison to years past. “The full show is always shown on BYUtv, but for PBS purposes, they’re usually only an hour program, and so we usually have to cut some things from the concert,” said Wilberg, adding:

“And as we worked on the edit of the show, we just said, ‘There is not one moment of this that can be cut. And so we made a plea that if we could show the full hour-and-a-half of the show, it would be really great. And we want to thank PBS because they actually said, ‘We are fine with you showing the entire show.’ So those who will be watching this both on BYUtv and PBS will be seeing the entire show because there really wasn’t a moment that we could cut from this.”

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It goes without saying, then, that Wilberg couldn’t really specify a favorite moment of his from the show. He loves it all. When we asked Salonga, however, she recalled a funny, ongoing anecdote that involved a special connection between her and Wilberg. “I had to learn ‘Angels From the Realms of Glory,’ which is traditionally sung at the end of these concerts,” she said. “And the first time I sang it, I blinked. I did something wrong somewhere. And I would mentally say, ‘I got another shot tomorrow. That’s OK.’ And I was running out of chances. I think there was one time when Mack just turned around and was trying to get me back in because there was something that I couldn’t quite latch on to rhythmically, or I went ahead, or I was behind or something. So he had to literally turn his whole body around just to get me back in. And I was just looking at him, and in my mind, I was like, ‘We’ve got to get this right tomorrow.'”

When Salonga shared this experience with us, Wilberg quickly replied, “Well, you did it very well each time.” And Suchet, meanwhile, had his own humorous, behind-the-scenes moment that he eagerly shared during the recent Q&A. “In the show, there are a huge amount of young children that gave their all, during the rehearsals and during the performances,” he said. “And when I wasn’t on stage, I was in my dressing room and watching the monitor of the show. And that’s how I witnessed Lea’s wonderful song. I have to say that as a professional to another professional, [her] commitment and passion is what shined through that screen in my dressing room. It was an extraordinary moment.” He added:

But the great thing is, soon after that, I had to come on stage and I was walking through this huge long corridor, and there are about 50 children passing me, all 2 foot 3. And one one of them actually stopped me and said, ‘Mister, I can’t remember your name, but good luck.’ I thought it was so sweet.

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Ahead: Peter Pan, Poirot, and an NYC Return


Before there was the Golden Globe-nominated Oppenheimer the film, there was Oppenheimer the TV serial, which debuted back in 1980. Since then, star David Suchet has kept busy with acting, and it doesn’t stop with the Tabernacle Choir. “I’m going to be in my first pantomime. I’m going to be in Peter Pan,” he told us when we asked about future projects. “I said ‘yes’ to playing Captain Hook in this pantomime because, I mean, I’m a classical actor — the chance to be in a pantomime after 54 years as a classical actor, I just couldn’t say ‘no’ to. So I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know what to expect… And then I go out after that on the road with my one-person show called Poirot and More, which is looking at my whole career and highlighting my creation of Hercule Poirot.”

Salonga, meanwhile, has kept busy with an acclaimed Sondheim play, in addition to the Tabernacle Choir special. “After Old Friends is over, I head back to New York for a break,” she said when we asked about her plans down the line. “I have been working nonstop since July. I need a couple of weeks to do nothing. And then we’ll see what happens after that. There are plans for concerts in parts of the U.S. And I’m sure that I will have an itinerary presented to me not long after I return. Certainly nothing I can talk about at the moment, but the immediate plan after my time here in London is to take a break and sleep.”

In the meantime, Christmas With the Tabernacle Choir begins streaming December 12 on PBS, in addition to BYUtv. You can watch it through the link below:

Watch on PBS


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