HUMBLE BEGINNINGS: One the school’s shows at the Music Bowl years ago.
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS: One the school’s shows at the Music Bowl years ago.

Cathedral of Praise looks back on 21 Christmas musicals

IT was a starry Sunday night in December 1994.

The Rockhampton Music Bowl was ablaze with lights as a cast of amateur performers from the Cathedral of Praise presented their inaugural Christmas Musical.

What started as a small audience quickly grew to thousands in those initial years, as their reputation for presenting a quality night of Christmas entertainment, including a fireworks finale, was established in the community.

And as the crowds grew, so did their performances, increasing to two nights.

With a vision to bless the community, the local church hired the Music Bowl for six consecutive years from 1994.

They built some props, erected a huge tree from which the choir could sing, hence introducing the now iconic Singing Christmas Tree.

Ps Elva Fingleton of the Cathedral of Praise has been the driving force and the producer of these unique Christmas Musicals.

"Twenty-one years ago I decided it would be a great idea to share the Christmas Story with our community," she said.

"Society has changed greatly in 21 years; today there is hardly any mention of Jesus in all the Christmas celebrations. By writing a unique script and presenting the story through acting, dancing and singing, I endeavour to retell this timeless story each year. I never want the Christmas Story to be lost so it is my passion to present the Christmas Story with excellence as a free gift to our community."

Their 2011 How Bazaar show.
Their 2011 How Bazaar show.

In 2001, Ps Elva decided it was time to bring the event back to their air-conditioned auditorium on Carlton St, eliminating the weather elements that always challenged the shows proceeding.

Themes from the Roaring 20s, pirates, an Arabian bazaar, an outback shearing shed and a museum to Get Smart, Fawlty Towers, CSI and more recently the Marvel characters have been the means the script writers have used to tell this ageless story. Some talented local actors and dancers were discovered, props were built and a huge tree was erected for the choir. "The aim of all of this creativity has been to tell the timeless story of God's love and the hope He gave at Christmas," Ps Elva said.

Fast forward 21 years from those humble beginnings, and travel through time as you watch this year's production, "Back to the Manger".

Two university students inadvertently find themselves on a journey of

discovery about Christmas. As they approach the Christmas break, Max and Annie are trying desperately to finish their last physics assignment and submit it. Annie is slightly stressed as it has not gone according to her plan.

Max has a much more cavalier approach and is simply enjoying the distraction of not thinking about Christmas with the family. What they soon realise is Christmas is more than a to-do list and more than a family get together with dreadful Christmas shirts.

It is a message of hope, redemption and grace.

A MARVELous Christmas was their production of choice in 2014.
A MARVELous Christmas was their production of choice in 2014. Contributed

The cast and crew of 100 have worked tirelessly over the past few months to bring the locally written script to life. One thing that hasn't changed in 21 years is the amazing vocals of the Singing Christmas Tree led by Jennifer Underwood. The life-size tree has been a key feature since its inception in 1994 and always complements the beautifully choreographed dancing. Underpinning all this talent is an amazing set and dazzling costumes that have been created and sourced by the talented Kathy Kane.

The actors never disappoint, and this year crowd favourites Stephen Purnell and Donna Kirkland will be joined by Daniel Frost and Devon Holloway to keep the audience enthralled and entertained from the outset. What started with one performance, on one night in December has grown to four performances over the first weekend in December.

So grab the family and come on a journey of discovery together at the Cathedral of Praise auditorium on Carlton St.

Musical history

2015 marks 21 Christmas Musicals…

At the Cathedral of Praise (15):

2015 Back to the Manger

2014 A MARVELous Christmas

2013 Click Go the Shears

2012 We Bought an Inn

2011 How Bazaar

2010 Get Smart this Christmas

2009 A Salty Towers Christmas

2008 Three Men and a Manger

2007 Are We There Yet?

2006 The DaBethlehem Code

2005 CSI: Christmas Scene Investigation

2004 Did you say… Pirates?

2003 Joyful

2002 Discovering Christmas

2001 That's the Good News

At the Rockhampton Music Bowl (6):

1999 A Christmas to Remember

1998 Bethlehem AD

1997 It's a Christmas Thing

1996 Nowhere to go for Christmas

1995 Go Change the World

1994 Christmas Countdown


  • Performances are Friday and Saturday from 7pm, and Sunday from 4pm and 7pm.
  • To be held at the Cathedral of Praise auditorium on Carlton St
  • Admission is free