'12 Gifts of Christmas' tour brings Christian all-stars to Mabee Center on Sunday
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
Thursday, November 29, 2012
11/29/12 at 5:55 AM
Most people may know her as "Blair" from the hit '80s sitcom "The Facts of Life." Some may also recognize her from her recent stint on "Survivor: Philippines." She's also an accomplished author, speaker and musician.
Lisa Whelchel hosts the "12 Gifts of Christmas" tour as it hits the Mabee Center on Sunday in an event she promises will inspire the entire family.
"This production is one of the most fun things I've ever done," she said in a recent telephone interview. "Almost everyone on the tour is a friend of mine. We're like family, and that transfers well to our audiences - there is a genuine connection with all of us."
Guests include an array of Christian all-stars: Steven Curtis Chapman, Mary Beth Chapman, Marilyn Meberg, Laura Story, Patsy Clairmont, Luci Swindoll, Anita Renfroe and Harris III, she said. Whelchel acts as hostess, leading guests through the night's spectacular, she said.
The tour hits nine cities nationwide, and it shares the "12 core values" of the holiday season, she said.
In an age when it seems the "season" is more about gift lists than the Holy Spirit, Whelchel said this show is an effort to help Christians get back in touch with their "roots."
Not to give too much away, but she did say a master illusionist will transform the Mabee center into a "winter wonderland" before their eyes.
"We don't have to throw out all the glorious trappings in order to celebrate Christmas. We show that he can't be lost at his own birthday party - he's the star of the show," she said.
"This tour comes through early enough in the season to be a great launching pad for the family - a jumping-off point that will have a positive effect on the entire Christmas season. It will be deeply inspiring," she said.
Nothing's ever been off-bounds for Whelchel. She's had several careers in her 49 years. By age 8, she was doing theater; at age 12 she was starring on "The New Mickey Mouse Club." Soon after, she broke through on mainstream television as spoiled rich girl Blair on "The Facts of Life." In 1984, she released a Billboard top 20 solo pop album, "All Because of You."
She also became an "unexpected author" of 13 books, on everything from how to make better friends to child-rearing and Bible studies.
"Everything I write comes out of my own life," she said. "I never wanted to be a writer - it's something that happened when I tried to express the challenges of raising a child with ADHD. My friends told me I should write my advice down," she said.
"I've always just wanted to share my love and acceptance of God with others."
She's survived a lot, including a recent diagnosis of West Nile Virus. She's not sure where or when she contracted it, though nearly one-third of the nation's cases have been traced to Texas, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 49-year-old lives in Dallas.
"Dr. just called with blood test results," she tweeted recently. "I have West Nile. Ugh. I'm fine, just tired."
She also has survived "Survivor: Philippines," a contest she's wanted to be a part of since she saw the earliest episodes, she said.
"My kids are grown, I'm not home-schooling any more ... I put my audition tape on Twitter and Facebook to get my fans behind me and let the producers of the show know just how serious I was about it," Whelchel said.
To prepare, she trained "ceaselessly" and hired a Navy SEAL to help her learn how to swim in the ocean and even worked with a sports psychologist to mentally prepare herself.
"I got it," she said, then laughed. "It's even harder than it looks on TV. That sounds hilariously cliche, but some of that stuff looks impossible on TV."
Early on, one group member whispers to her that he recognized her as "Blair Warner" from "The Facts of Life."
"What I like is that he didn't run out and tell everyone right away," she said. "I was there on my own merit and as my own person on my own terms and not as 'Blair' or anyone else.
"I've always wanted people to like me for me, and I genuinely get along with my teammates on 'Survivor.' "
She's not allowed to discuss too much about the show during its season, but she did say if she had the chance to try out for "Survivor" again, "Knowing what I do now ... oh my goodness!" she said.
"Oh, wow, that's a tough one. At this point, I'd say probably not," she said, then paused. "But maybe. ... Never say never, right?"
'12 GIFTS OF CHRISTMAS' TOUR
When: Doors open 5 p.m. showtime 6:30 p.m. Dec. 2
Where: Mabee Center Half End Arena, 7777 S. Lewis Ave.
Tickets: All ages. Tickets start at $25, plus fees, available at the venue box office, tulsaworld.com/mabee and by calling 800-678-1353. Group discounts also available.
Guests: Steven Curtis Chapman, Mary Beth Chapman, Marilyn Meberg, Laura Story, Patsy Clairmont, Luci Swindoll, Anita Renfroe, Harris III, Lisa Whelchel
Steven Curtis Chapman: The Christian pop-rocker has sold more than 10 million albums, won five Grammys and 56 Dove Awards. He's earned 46 No. 1 Christian radio hits in the United States.
Mary Beth Chapman: She and Steven Curtis Chapman have been married 27 years and have six children, including three girls adopted from China. Her 2010 book "Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope" was a New York Times best-seller.
Marilyn Meberg: She is the author of many books, including her latest, "Constantly Craving."
Luci Swindoll: She was a chorister for 15 years with the Dallas Opera and sang with such notables as Maria Callas and Placido Domingo. She's written 14 books and spoken all over the country.
Anita Renfroe: Renfroe is a comedian and author of "DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU: Kids, Carbs, and the Coming Hormonal Apocalypse." She's been featured in The New York Times, Readers Digest, Women's Day and The Washington Post.
Harris III: He's been playing with magic since he was 9 years old. At 27, he's now performed before 1 million people in more than 12 nations on five continents.
Patsy Clairmont: A former agoraphobia sufferer, Clairmont has spent 35 years speaking in the U.S. and Canada, Israel, and Africa, and she has even spoken at the Pentagon for the Flag Officers Bible Study.
Laura Story: She wrote the No. 1 worship hit "Indescribable," has won five Dove Awards and a Grammy for her music.
Original Print Headline: Star-studded holiday
Jennifer Chancellor 918-581-8346
Lisa Whelchel is coming to Tulsa. Courtesy