News Column

Music at center of academy's holiday celebration

November 21, 2013


Nov. 21--A theatergoer recently commented to Peter Earle, artistic director at the Academy of Performing Arts in Orleans, about how much she liked to listen to holiday music. "Well, I've got a show for you," he told her.

He and five other performers are inviting audiences to listen in on "Broadway to Hollywood Celebrates the Holidays" in a format that Earle likens to the old Christmas TV specials that Andy Williams and Bing Crosby hosted for years.

During past holiday seasons, the academy has usually produced a full play -- often some variation on the story of "A Christmas Carol" -- and also offered a "Sound of the Seasons" concert for a couple of nights. Earle says it was sometimes difficult to fit the concert into the schedule, and many audience members looked forward to it.

So Earle decided to combine the two, creating a story thread for a fully produced play, then filling it with holiday songs that were (almost all) introduced on stage or in a movie (leading to the "Broadway to Hollywood" part of the title). What Earle describes as "the loose premise": He and Martha Whatley have invited friends Rebecca Banas, Alexander Perry, Beau Jackett and 8-year-old Alanna Hartsgrove to their home for a holiday gathering and to rehearse a concert that they're singing in the next night. The friends socialize, trim the tree, drink egg nog and then start entertaining each other with music beyond what's due to go in the next day's "show."

With music-arranging help from music director/accompanist Chris Morris, Earle has included a wide range of styles and eras. Among the songs on the program: "Snow" from "White Christmas"; "Where Are You, Christmas?" which originated in the Jim Carrey movie version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"; "God Bless Us, Everyone," from "A Christmas Carol, the Musical"; "Mele Kelikimaka" (used in several movies); and tunes from "Home Alone" and "Disney's A Christmas Carol."

And did you know that "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is an award-winning song by Frank Loesser from the 1949 movie "Neptune's Daughter"? For tidbits like that, there will be background on the songs in the program, Earle says, to satisfy questions about origins and artists.

There are only two songs, he notes, that don't really fit the "Broadway to Hollywood" theme: Josh Groban's "Thankful" and "Lead With Your Heart," a song by the Tenors from Canada that will be performed by Jackett and Perry. Jackett and Perry are cousins who became closer friends while working together this summer on "Les Miserables" at the academy.

"They wanted to do it and I thought 'Why not? (Family) is what this season is all about,'" Earle says.

And if you're inspired to hum along, you'll have your chance: The show is due to end with a sing-along, truly inviting the audience into the party.

For more theater news and commentary, check out Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll's blog at and follow KathiSDCC on Twitter.


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