Angela Fulton as the Housekeeper shares a scene with the Chef at a past Bracebridge… (Lani Spicer / Andrea Fulton…)
In a sense, Andrea Fulton is the keeper of the Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite National Park.
The fantastic Christmas pageant owes much to her parents and her own commitment to the dinner show that has been staged at the Ahwahnee since 1927. For starters, she started performing in the pageant more than six decades ago at age 5 when photographer Ansel Adams played the role of Major Domo.
In 1978, her father, Eugene, who had taken over directing the pageant with her mom, Anna-Marie, died suddenly after a dress rehearsal. The family stayed to put on the show and Fulton stepped into a directing role with her mother the next year — a role she continues to this day.
So what exactly is Bracebridge? "It's a luxurious and elaborate dinner theater that brings the real meaning of Christmas back into everyone's life," Fulton says.
The music, the camaraderie and the over-the-top menu converge to evoke an Old English holiday at Squire Bracebridge's home that was old even when Washington Irving wrote about it in "Old Christmas and Bracebridge Hall." The characters in the book who attended that holiday meal serve as the inspiration, but the show has changed over time to include a cast of more than 80 characters and extras. (Check out these photos of past Bracebridge Dinners.)
Fulton updated the original show — she describes it as humorless, "as dull as dishwater" — in 2000 to include more plot lines, more well-rounded characters and more humor. Each year she plays the Housekeeper and works year-round on the upcoming production. (Costumes are created in April, the show is cast in May, etc.)
But some things haven't changed. Holiday banners and wreaths still transform the Ahwahnee's dining room into Bracebridge Hall, and the procession of seven courses of food marched through the room still typically include boar's head (roasted beef tenderloin), peacock pie (made with pheasant) and plum pudding.
Dinners this year are scheduled at 6 p.m. Dec. 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24 and 25. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and cost $299 for adults and $230 for children 12 and older. Call (801) 559-4884 to make dinner-only reservations.
Guests also may book lodging packages at the Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge and Wawona Hotel that include dinner tickets. One night at the Ahwahnee plus two dinner ticks starts at $1,125. To make reservations, call (801) 559-4903 or go to the Bracebridge Dinner website.
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