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Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre Hosts Christmas on Lake, Its Holiday Cabaret

As the holidays come closer and closer, there are still some ways to enjoy the arts and celebrate Christmas. One of the best ways is Christmas on Lake, a cabaret performance courtesy of Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre. While FWSMT has been treating local audiences to some pretty spectacular musical theatre productions for decades now – and featuring the very best of our youthful talent along the way – their Christmas cabaret is now in its seventh year. While Kirby Volz, the director of those productions for many year, is still a guiding presence for Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre, his former student Andrew Sherman, himself now a teacher at Homestead High School, is now at the helm. And these cabaret performances offer a somewhat less strenuous activity compared to splashy productions like last summer’s Les Miserables. And it features some very seasoned performers from their present and their past.

“Christmas on Lake, our holiday cabaret production, features all students from our program,” Sherman said. “Some are current students, and some are alumni of the program. This year about 60 percent are alumni, most of them currently college students who are home for the holidays. It’s amazing how these sophomores and even freshman come back and are so much better even from one semester in a college program.”

The name Christmas on Lake stems from the new home of the Indiana Musical Theatre Foundation, a relatively new umbrella for Fort Wayne Summer Musical Theatre, and its new facility on Lake Avenue, which is already booking rehearsal space for some of the city’s finest arts organizations. This Christmas production will take place in their RKF Studios, named for the organization’s benefactor Russ Koehlinger Foundation. While COVID led to some cancelations for FWSMT (Les Mis was supposed to have been staged in summer 2020), it also provided time for construction on the arts facility to continue. And Sherman is quick to point out space is designated for arts events, not wedding or other party events. Having the talent (and some alum are even college graduates by now) on hand, Sherman said the show comes together pretty easily even as many are out of town until just before the performances.

Andrew Sherman

“We really only do one or two rehearsals for each song,” Sherman said. “Some of the alums who are in college aren’t even home yet and won’t get here until a day or two before the shows on Friday and Saturday. About a month before the show I reach out to see who’s interested. There are certain songs I want to include, but otherwise I just ask them ‘What do you have?’”

This year marks the first time there are two evening performances, largely decided by the size of the studio and the ability to accommodate the usual crowds for the performances. In addition to Christmas on Lake (Friday and Saturday, December 17-18, 7:30 p.m.), the new space (2446 Lake Avenue) allows for rehearsal space, workshops, and other arts uses, sure to become a hub of activity in the years to come. But first prepare to be dazzled by the space as a setting for some special holiday entertainment.

“I think what makes it special is that, even though it comes together very quickly, the students and alumni come back and haven’t missed a beat,” Sherman said. “It’s just a feel good night. And there will be a cash bar from Biaggi’s, and we see it evolving more and more over the years.”

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