In a small, enclosed sewing room under her carport, Gail Henrichs puts on her “Majesty of Christmas” pageant rehearsal music and feeds fabric through a sewing machine.
The hum of Christmas music and a busy sewing needle reverberate through her 12-foot by 16-foot room while learning the words to each song to Northside Baptist’s upcoming Christmas pageant.
This year, Henrichs is responsible for stitching together dozens of new costumes for the “Majesty of Christmas” cast.
Since the end of summer, Henrichs has been preparing for the beloved annual pageant, delegating tasks to a small team of church seamstresses, who have each been working tirelessly to pull off the theatrics of the upcoming show.
On her own, Henrichs said she has already spent hundreds of hours sewing and revising costumes for the two-hour show – a Crossroads Christmas tradition.
“I’m just using what God gave me, the gift of sewing,” Henrichs said, about her role in the three-decades-old musical. “Everybody has a gift, and if we use it for the glory of God, it makes it even better.”
The Northside Christmas pageant, which halted for a few years before rebooting in 2015, is bigger than ever this year, with director Tom Smith at the helm.
His vision this year: “Majesty of Christmas: Santa’s Workshop Experience.”
The two-act show features a host of classical and energetic Christmas tunes featuring more than a dozen costume changes, several set changes and about 200 actors and singers – and that’s only the first half.
The latter half, which features about 30 first-century-inspired costumes, is a dramatic retelling of the Bible from Creation to the birth of Jesus in the manger.
“We design everything from the ground up,” said Smith, Northside’s music minister. “I see everything in my mind – the songs, the choreography, the costumes – and then we get together and make it happen.”
The pageant costumery was initially conceptualized by Smith, who then collaborated with Henrichs to make it all come together.
“My husband has a background in theater and played several theater roles in high school. He enjoys theatrics and has a lot of imagination,” said Smith’s wife, Tiffany Smith, who also serves as the pageant’s choreographer. “He’s really good with seeing the whole picture in his head and putting it together in his mind.”
The entire show, which this year offers the most elaborate costumes to date, costs about $5,000. The church views the play as a ministry to the public because tickets are free every year.
“We’ve scaled back some in recent years, so we don’t have as big of a budget as we used to,” Smith said, mentioning the choir members gave an additional $20 to help pay for costume extras. “We try to recycle as much as we can from previous shows.”
To dress and fit more than 100 cast members, Henrichs said her sewing team begins working on costumes early in the season, creating wearable models in each size and organizing a fitting session for each cast member, then writing down measurements. That process alone is long and tedious. Then the search begins for fabric and other essentials.
“There are so many components to one costume, things you wouldn’t think about until it starts to come together,” Henrichs said. “And I was driving all over creation this year looking for material because we no longer have a fabric store in Victoria.”
Henrichs said her favorite costume is for the Rudolph number, which features tuxedo coats and animal print adult, zip-up onesies.
“I just think they’re fun and cute,” she said. “The girls wearing them have asked if they could buy their onesie, so we’re going to let them” rather than keeping them in storage for a future show.
Henrichs and Smith said most people who attend and participate in the pageant have no idea how many hours are put into the show so it’s ready for the public by Christmas.
“Tom goes to work at 9 a.m. and comes home after the kids are in bed, and it’s like that from October to December,” Tiffany Smith said, smiling. “It’s a huge investment.”
But everyone is in agreement, the show and all its effort is worth it.
Each enjoy knowing they’re bringing something magical to the Crossroads and fulfilling the public’s desire to see the beloved show each Christmas.
“What other thing do we do as a church that brings this many people in? It brings in such a variety of people of every background,” Tiffany Smith said.
As Henrichs puts the final touches on the costumes this week, while also perfecting her performances in the show, the excitement to debut “Majesty of Christmas” is palpable.
It’s officially Christmas when the stage lights dim at Northside and the pageant begins.
“We’re all so proud. Everyone who comes is going to be blown away,” Henrichs said.