Like so many other Disney World guests, I look forward to the Candlelight Processional each year at Epcot. It's an incredible, moving performance that tells the Christmas story with a mass choir, 50-piece orchestra and celebrity narrator.
The long-running Candlelight Processional has continued to grow in popularity through the years, and as such, securing a good seat can take a bit of planning.
Guests who want to guarantee themselves a seat close to the stage can purchase lunch or dinner packages. Lunch packages range from $32.99 to $55.99 for adults and $12.50 to $17.99 for children ages 3 to 9. Dinner packages are $49.99 to $66.99 for adults and $14.50 to $26.99 for children ages 3 to 9. (See the AllEars.Net page for a list of participating restaurants.) In addition to reserved seating at the Candlelight Processional, meal packages also include VIP viewing of the nightly fireworks show, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.
But you don't have to opt for the lunch or dinner packages to see the Candlelight Processional. A stand-bye queue forms outside the America Gardens Theatre before each show. Although folks in this line likely are to be seated in the back half of the theater, cast members really try to admit as many people as possible to each show. Many spectators even stand behind the seating and watch from the walkway between the outdoor theater and the American Adventure Pavilion.
To be sure, certain narrators are more popular than others. When Monique Coleman, who played Taylor McKessie in the "High School Musical" movies, was the narrator, I camped out in the stand-by line for a couple hours to ensure seats for my young kids, who were big fans of the series of movies.
This week, I had the pleasure of hearing Neil Patrick Harris at the Candlelight Processional. He certainly is one of the bigger names to appear, and a cast member told me that everyone in the stand-by queue made it into the shows -- even with 1,000 dinner packages to accommodate that night.
Harris was great in his sixth year as a narrator. He opened by saying, "S'up?" and then launched into a story about how he used to scoff at Disney character meals. That has changed, he said, since he became the father of two-year-old twins. Now he sees those experiences as "manna from heaven."
After connecting with the guests, Harris launched into the story of Jesus' birth and his time on Earth. As is tradition, his narration was punctuated by traditional hymns delivered beautifully by the choir and orchestra. In fact, Harris could be seen nodding his head in time to the music and even singing along.
The story and songs vary little from year to year, but even my children noticed a new section in the narration. Harris discussed a possibly romanticized -- yet still-compelling -- rendition of how “Silent Night” was created and would become “the most beloved of all Christmas carols.”
As nice as this small change was to experience this year, the best part of the show for my daughter was one of the crowd favorites that we've enjoyed every year we've attended. The choir's performance of “When They Saw the Star/Rejoice with Execeeding Great Joy” continues its tradition of being an upbeat showstopper near the end of the performance.
The Candlelight Processional runs every evening until December 30. Shows are approximately 40 minutes. Each evening there are three shows -- 5, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m. (except December 2, there is no 5 p.m. show)
DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Walt Disney World at the Candlelight Processional. This did not influence my story, and my opinions are my own.
The previous post in this blog was Peek inside The Legend of Jack Sparrow before it officially opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The next post in this blog is Sailing away on the Disney Fantasy this week.