LUMBERTON — Colandra McDowell first looked out into the bright lights that shine on the stage at the Carolina Civic Center Historic Theater as a young girl.
“It’s full circle to me,” McDowell said. “That stage is the first stage I performed on.”
On Friday night, the lights will shine on an adult McDowell, who has since dedicated her life to singing. The Lumberton native, who now lives in Durham, said she’s returning to the place that gave her a start. She’s bringing with her the gift of music — just in time for the holidays.
The soft spoken psalmist, called by JET Magazine as an “artist to watch,” is one of the many featured performers in the cast list of “A Robeson County Christmas Show,” a musical review which opens on Friday at 7 p.m., continues on Saturday at the same time, and then provides a two-day encore on Dec. 14 and Dec. 15.
Created and directed by Kendrix Singletary, the theater’s resident artist, “A Robeson County Christmas Show” features regional singers and dancers performing popular and spiritual Christmas songs like “What Child is This?,” “Joy to the World,” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” The two-hour performance costs $15 per person or $10 with the advance purchase of 10 tickets or more.
“So much has been given from Lumberton,” McDowell said, “And for us to have something that is usually done in major cities, to have it here — something good and positive for the people — I hope that it continues.”
Rehearsals have been in full swing at the theater, and on Monday night while actors danced and sang “Frosty the Snowman,” Jason Bullock, a featured singer and teacher at Southeastern Community College, likened the show to performances at the Alabama Theater in South Carolina.
In the background, 9-year-old Isabella Wright belted the song, her mature voice filling with vibrato.
The 15 adults and children who will perform all have strong local roots.
“They grew up in the area,” Bullock said, “and it gives it that hometown feel.”
That “hometown feel” will also be featured in a slide show of photographs depicting snowy scenes in Robeson County — images that will be sprinkled throughout the performance.
“This is something you’re not going to see in Robeson County,” Singletary said. “There is great quality music. We have an awesome theater which is decorated beautifully. We’re not skipping on anything around here.”
For audience members dreaming of a white Christmas, Singletary is not skipping on that either.
“It’s gonna be snowin’ in here,” Singletary said.
According to cast member and vocal coach Lauren Miller, the show is all about celebration — “the reason for the season.”
“Celebrating the birth of Christ is what Christmas is all about,” Miller said. “This holiday review has old classics and traditional Christmas songs. By the ending people will have laughed and have gone to the real meaning of Christmas.”
And while McDowell has performed on stage and in the studio — she recently released her debut album “ETA,” which deals with women’s issues — she is impressed with the scope of the show.
“I don’t know if people realize what they’re coming to,” McDowell said. “If you think of shows on Broadway or Vegas, we’re going to do it in our version in our hometown. It’s the real deal. It’s a big show.”