Men in capes and top hats sprint toward a makeshift dressing room only to emerge minutes later in Marine uniforms.
It isn’t directly apparent backstage, but onstage, the time has just shifted to WWII in the Purdue Musical Organization’s annual Christmas show.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Christmas show, during which the performers will attempt to take audience members through the history of PMO, beginning with its conception in 1933. From there, performers change from vintage tuxes all the way to flashy modern costumes as the show progresses.
For Maxx Wright, reusing the original costumes of the time period is a special event. A fourth-generation Glee Club member, Wright wears the same costumes that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather wore during their time with PMO.
“One of the guys standing next to me has Al Stewart’s costume, the first director of PMO,” Wright said. “So that is pretty cool. My dad and grandpa wore the costume with the cape when they were here, so it’s a big deal for them (to see it).”
The sophomore in the College of Engineering sports several vintage costumes throughout the performance, and most costume changes need to be made in a matter of minutes.
“It’s crazy,” Wright said. “We don’t get a whole lot of downtime.”
Wright can’t study for finals in the spare moments he can find to himself. Though the PMO show is a huge time commitment, Wright considers the whole experience worth it.
Emily Grasso echoed the sentiment, although she was forced to hunch as she walked with her backpack, which was full of heavy books for finals.
“I have about 30 minutes (to study),” Grasso said. “I’m in University Choir, so I have some time to study between numbers. But the Purduettes and Glee Club have no time to study.”
This year, final rehearsals for the show fell on Dead Week, causing many like Grasso to seek a spare few minutes to cram for finals. A freshman in the College of Education, Grasso said there is more pressure for the show to go perfectly than there is on finals right now for her.
Already succeeding ticket sales from this time last year, the 80th show is drawing on old tradition and adding new flair.
As with any show, there is a great deal of preparation that goes into its production. However, it is the sense of community that keeps the entire thing running.
As performers rush to take the stage, they are given hugs of encouragement from other cast members. Likewise, hugs of congratulation are awarded once they return backstage. Through this support comes determination as one PMO member exclaims, “That was the best run so far for sure.”
This year’s Purdue Christmas Show will be performed at four times: at noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The shows will be performed at the Elliott Hall of Music. 8 p.m.’s performance on Saturday will feature sign language interpreters for anyone in the audience needing assistance.
Elliott is also offering a special: if you are a Purdue student and you buy a student ticket, you receive an additional ticket for free. Tickets are available at the Elliott Hall Box Office, the Stewart Center Box Office and the Pao Hall Box Office, or by phone at 765-494-3933 or 800-914-7469 or at Ticketmaster.com.
Ticket prices range from $26 for adults, $24 for seniors, $20 for students ages 13 through college and $12 for children 12 and under.