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Ellen Travolta and family unwrap the holidays with ‘Christmas Unwrapped’

November 22, 2018

We all have a favorite toy from childhood.

For Coeur d’Alene actress Margaret Travolta, her favorite toys were her dolls.

“They were very important to me,” she said. “And I still have my Tiny Tears doll. She’s missing an arm.”

We probably won’t see Tiny Tears on stage for “Christmas Unwrapped,” the latest holiday show created by Ellen Travolta, Margaret’s sister. Instead, the Travolta sisters will share snippets of stories about toys submitted by area residents.

“Christmas Unwrapped,” Ellen Travolta’s latest holiday cabaret at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, opens Friday and will feature stories, music and dancing from the Travolta sisters and Ellen’s daughter, Molly Allen. A rotating crop of guest performers will round out the program, which is being directed by Troy Nickerson.

Last year, Travolta asked local fans to share stories of their Christmas memories. Then, from the stage, she and her sister shared pared down versions of those holiday tales. This year, she asked for toy stories: a toy wanted, a toy received, and a toy given. More than 100 people shared their toy stories, and Travolta has spent the fall selecting the best and editing them into short segments.

“My sister and I will read the stories and Molly will do a Christmas monologue about her life with her toys, which is very funny,” Travolta said. “We change it up. … The dancing and singing is festive. And I’m excited about the response.”

Now in its sixth year, Travolta’s annual holiday show always seeks to mix things up. This year, they’re mixing things up each week with different guest artists. Opening weekend will feature New York cabaret singer Mark Cotter, a Coeur d’Alene favorite. Weekend two will feature Spokane performers Abbey Crawford and Patrick Treadway. Closing weekend will feature vocalist Laura Sable.

“This time with the toys, I like it,” said Allen, who made her first appearance in her mom’s Christmas show last year. “It’ll be kind of the same format as last year, where I do a monologue, and talking about my favorite toys. Some singing and dancing. I just like being with my aunt and my mom. … And it’ll be a little different this year because the guest stars come and go.”

Also new this year is toy-themed trivia, sponsored by Figpickles Toy Emporium.

For Margaret Travolta, the big draw of the holiday show is “working with my family again, of course,” she said. The stories she shares this year, well … at least one of them has a personal connection.

“I can’t give anything away, but my husband wrote in, like everyone else,” and his story was one that was picked, she said. “And there are a couple (stories) that are very, very sweet.”

Where last year’s “Christmas memories” theme resulted in stories that are more sentimental, the toy tales this year are a little bit lighter, Margaret Travolta said. Overall, she hopes audiences come away from the show feeling the holiday spirit.

“I hope they walk away feeling ready for the holidays and inspired, and get some great memories, and new ideas,” she said. “That’s all I ever hear, ‘I feel so ready for Christmas now.’ It bumps up the holiday for everyone and gets them in the spirit.”

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