UUCMC Amahl and the Night VisitorsIt starts with the appearance of an unusually large star in the desert night sky — and for a young boy named Amahl, it heralds the appearance of three kings at his family’s humble home, seeking shelter for the night as they make their way to a place called Bethlehem.

First performed as a live TV special in 1951, Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors quickly took its rightful place among the Yuletide season’s best-loved musical masterworks — and continuing a local tradition, the contemporary opera will be staged at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County Meeting House on West Front Street this Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14.

Presented at 7 pm on Saturday, and encoring at 6 pm Sunday, the family-friendly favorite is the second in a four-part Performing Arts Series at UUCMC; directed by Elaine Held (with co-musical direction by Louise Chernosky), and starring not one but two young local actresses as Amahl: Tara Lieneck of Middletown (at right in photo) featured on December 13, and Clara Randel of Aberdeen (left) taking over the role on December 14.

Tara and Clara are joined in the cast by some grown-up veterans of the Performing Arts programs, including Kirsten Norberg Seitz, who first sang the role of Amahl’s mother 14 years ago at UUCMC. Charles Watson of Red Bank, who appeared alongside Kirsten as King Balthazar in that 2000 production, returns to his role for the ninth time — while Thomas Cannizzaro of Shrewsbury steps into the role of King Caspar, and Jan Dash (who studied voice with Leon Lishner, the first Balthazar in the original Amahl) takes on the part of King Melchior.

Tickets for either of the two performances are priced at $5, $15, and $25, and are also available via PayPal online at — or by check (made out to UUCMC/PAS) mailed to Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County, 1475 West Front Street, Lincroft, NJ 07738.

The UUCMC Performing Arts Series returns on January 25 with a 4:30 pm program of Chamber Music of Debussy, Mozart and Bernstein, featuring acclaimed musicians Joel DeWitt, violin, and Brian Gilmore, piano. The series wraps on April 19 with Story Slam: Telling Our Stories, an event performed in the manner of public radio’s Moth Radio Hour. A reception will follow all events in the series, and more information can be had by calling (732)639-0222 or emailing