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Lightwire Theater’s glow-in-the-dark show wows Santa Rosa crowd

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Elements of the classic Christmas scene flickered to life from the otherwise pitch-black stage at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts Sunday afternoon, drawing excited whispers from the crowd.

Among them was the outline of a soaring green tree decorated with colorful orbs and gold ribbons. Soon, three toy soldiers appeared from the dark too, twisting and turning as they performed a robotic dance before shimmying into the holiday classic, “Jingle Bell Rock.”

The scene marked the start of the center’s showing of “A Very Electric Christmas,” the tale of a baby bird separated from his family during their journey south for the winter. After landing at the North Pole, the bird faces a group of mischievous purple mice under the command of a rat king, who plots against his safe return home.

The show is produced by Lightwire Theater, a company that uses electroluminescent wire to shape the characters for its plays.

The company was founded in 2007 by two former Broadway performers, Ian Carney and Corbin Popp, who molded their passion for theatre and technology to form their neon puppetry-based productions.

Costumes can take 200 hours to create, and they’re constructed using sturdy, recyclable materials ranging from plumbing supplies to fishing poles, according to the company’s website. With rechargeable batteries for power, costumes also come equipped with light dimmers so performers can control the intensity and timing of the light, said Tyler Scifres, the show’s tour manager and one of the six performers on stage Sunday.

“The fact that it is a glow-in-the-dark show makes it unlike any other,” Scifres said. “We utilize all the magic tricks to put on a show.”

Roughly 1,400 people, mostly families with kids, attended Sunday’s performance, said Melanie Weir, education and community engagement manager for the Luther Burbank Center. The show was part of the center’s Family Fun series, which features performances for children ages 2 to 12. Lightwire Theater’s Christmas-based show previously played at the Luther Burbank Center in 2015, and the company has performed other productions at the center almost every year, Weir said.

For Cade Rossetti, 9, of Petaluma, Sunday’s production was the second time he’d seen a Lightwire Theater show. He saw the company’s “Dino Light” production, which tells the story of a scientist who brings a dinosaur to life, about two years ago, but he said he enjoyed Sunday’s performance more.

“I liked the story behind it,” Rossetti said after the show. “It had a clearer story.”

“They convey a lot of emotion without saying any words” chimed in Rossetti’s grandmother, Jude Kreiss, who also attended Sunday’s show.

Spencer Brooks and his wife drove from Gualala in Mendocino County to attend Sunday’s show with their 8-year-old grandson and his mother, a trip both said was well-worth their time. Brooks, who got the tickets as an early Christmas gift, admired the costume construction and was pleased to see them under a spotlight at the end of the show, he said. “I was wondering how those things moved,” Brooks said. “It was light-tastic.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com.

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