Home for the Holidays
Grand Theatre, London, Ontario
A restorative auditory balm to begin the Christmas and holiday season
Not only was the aesthetic re-modeling of the interior of London’s Grand Theatre a charming venue to begin the celebration of the holiday season.
The sparkling and twinkling lobby lights also beamed brightly in the eyes of ecstatic theatre goers around me who were elated to be ‘home’ after a near long twenty-month absence from live theatre.
Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum writes in his Programme Note how he believes in the magic at this time of year because he can feel it. ‘Home for the Holidays’ has uplifted his spirits as he and co-curator Andrew Petrasiunas have been immersed in creating a magical, musical world this opening night.
Thank you for uplifting my spirits as well this evening.
And what an opening to experience firsthand.
Artist Jacob Macinnis appears at the top of the show where they explain the importance of the ghost light in the theatre and how it has remained on for the entire duration of the pandemic. When Jacob turned off the light and the stage lights came on, an adoring and worshipful roar of audience approval resounded in the auditorium.
I was home.
There is much to admire and enjoy that certainly placed me in the Christmas and holiday mood.
For one, Rachel Forbes’ insightfully keen eye to the production’s look in costume selection and design winningly worked well for me. I liked the subtle incorporations of the colours of the season (silver, gold, red) reflected in the artists’ clothing especially in Blythe Wilson and Elena Reyes’ shimmering gold and emerald gowns.
Forbes’ set design functionally incorporated the use of the stage to its fullest. Orchestra members were placed Stage Right, up stage right and just slightly off-centre stage left. The covered drape over the circular riser centre stage is ceremoniously raised to reveal all the colours of the season thanks to the intricately placed Christmas tree decorations all around. The placement of the props and other Christmas accoutrements reminded me of a possible Santa’s workshop.
Kimberley Purtell’s focused lighting sharply grabbed my attention in various musical numbers. I simply adored the throwing of lights from one person to the next in ‘When the Lights Come on at Christmas’. Riveting to watch from my seat in the upper balcony.
While Director Dennis Garnhum wisely chose to make the decision to have the actors speak about what the term ‘Home’ means for all people and for all of us without delving into the politicized, he smartly and carefully placed terrific bits of humour which put a big smile on my face and those of my guests who attended with me. Pay attention to the numbers ‘Why Do I Live Where the Air Hurts My Face?’ and ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’. Artist Gabi Epstein stepped forward to share with us her connection to Judaism and her husband’s connection to Catholicism and the fact they celebrate both in their family. She and her husband call this time in December ‘Christmakkah’ which brought laughter from the audience. Epstein also shared that we are now in Day 6 of Hannukkah which is also important to recognize at this time of year.
I also paid close attention to see how Garnhum would integrate the religious significance of what Christmas means to practicing Catholics and Christians, especially since I am one myself. I was moved because I really liked the choices made to include the French medley of some songs specifically ‘Minuit Chretiens’ and ‘Les Anges dans le Ciel’.
To hear some of the transcendent sounding harmonies in several of my favourite tunes from this prime cast ensemble made me close my eyes simply to enjoy and I must give credit to Musical Supervisor Andrew Petrasiunas for the outstanding arrangements and Music Director Alexandra Kane for so astutely guiding the band and the cast. Some songs where I did this included ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’, ‘Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth’ and ‘Someday at Christmas’. The sound balance of the orchestra with the artists hit that sweet spot of perfection for me in these numbers as I could hear clearly every word of these songs from my seat in the upper balcony.
One slight quibble I did have, however, was in some of the choral numbers at the top of the show where the sound balance of the orchestra overpowered the singers and I wasn’t able to hear fully the lyrics of some songs I did not recognize, and that was disappointing and frustrating. This occurred in the first numbers ‘Home for the Holidays and ‘Ring Out, Solstice Bells’. Hopefully, this can be rectified for the future enjoyment of audiences.
Final Comments: Treat yourselves to ‘Home for the Holidays’. Joyous, wonderful, and uplifting.
Running Time approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
‘Home for the Holidays’ runs to December 24 on the Spriet Stage at London Ontario’s Grand Theatre, 471 Richmond Street. For tickets, call the Box Office call (519) 672-9030 or visit www.grandtheatre.com. You can also visit Facebook AND Twitter:: @TheGrandLondon.
The Company: Justin Eddy, Gabi Epstein, Gavin Hope, Jacob Macinnis, Masini McDermott, Elena Reyes, Mark Uhre, Blythe Wilson
Curator / Director: Dennis Garnhum
Musical Director: Alexandra Kane
Curator / Musical Supervisor: Andrew Petrasiunas
Musical Staging: Lisa Stevens / Set and Costume Designer: Rachel Forbes / Lighting Designer: Kimberly Purtell / Sound Designer: Emily Porter / Stage Manager: Kelly Luft