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Why the Ringwald Theatre’s Vince Kelley Wrote a Christmas Show About Barbra Streisand

‘Jingle Babs’ features a surprise at every performance

Sarah Bricker Hunt

When the curtain rises on the Ringwald Theatre’s latest production, “Jingle Babs,” audiences will be transported to 1967 New York City. Amongst the glitz and glitter on Broadway is a highly stressed Barbra Streisand contemplating how she’ll pull off her first Christmas special as a massive blizzard rolls into town. 

The play is the brainchild of Ringwald veteran performer Vince Kelley, who tells Pride Source he decided to set the show in the late ’60s because he loves the decade and because it’s a time where “Barbra and Christmas have a sublime intersection with the release of her first — and best? — Christmas album.” The critically acclaimed quintuple-platinum album, appropriately titled “A Christmas Album,” spent five weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and was the best-selling holiday album of the year. 

“Jingle Babs” stars Richard Payton as Barbra, an easy casting decision for Kelley and director Brandy Joe Plambeck. Not only is Payton a talented and beloved mainstay actor at the Ringwald, but, Kelley says, Payton has a “deep-rooted love and respect” for the Broadway legend and multi-hyphenate superstar.

Kelley says he wrote the play over the summer, starting with the cast list. “It’s so much easier and more fun for me to write for specific people,” he explains. “Melissa Beckwith and Joel Mitchell are local legends I’ve had the honor of working with in the past, so writing for them was a breeze, and the rest just fell into place.” 

As the play unfolds, Barbra has to act fast to cover the performances for guest stars who are unable to reach New York because of the snow. This approach allowed Kelley to seamlessly incorporate a surprise element at every single show — rotating guest actors who portray famous celebrities of the time. Even the cast is unaware of who might appear on stage at any given performance. 

Kelley says he’s excited to bring a new holiday show to the Ringwald. The last Christmas performance produced by the theater company was 2021’s “Have Yourself a Misery Little Christmas,” the final show performed at Ringwald’s former Woodward Avenue location. “It’s so fun to now have the opportunity to be back for Christmas again at our new home at Affirmations.” 

“Jingle Babs” runs through Dec. 18 on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at the Ringwald’s space inside Affirmations, Ferndale’s LGBTQ+ community center (290 W. Nine Mile Road). Visit theringwald.com for tickets.

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