Home for the Holidays, at Saginaw Valley State University, is a review style show with songs and dance numbers loosely tied together through family vignettes. The story we follow is college students, Home for the Holidays, explaining to their families what they, as theatre/music majors, enjoy learning in school.
This show is such a wide range of holiday and non-holiday material, there is something in it for everyone to enjoy. Even the young boy beside me shouted for joy when a hip-hop number, danced to a Hamilton song, began.
There is a lot of potential for fun in shows like this, and the director of these types of shows always deserves kudos for handling the one thousand moving pieces involved in variety shows.
Since this show is not the normal format of a play I would review, I am going to take a slightly different format as well.
Here are the top seven things I appreciated about this performance:
Number seven - The incredibly delicate, and savagely beautiful piano solo by Kevin Cole. Definitely what I expected given the reputation that precedes him, but nonetheless, breath-taking.
Number six - I loved the effort that was made to talk about other holidays that are celebrated this time of year. It would have been easy to do a holiday show and not acknowledge other celebrations.
Number five - The SVSU Cardinal singers were prominently featured in the production. While their tight semi-circle caused some sightline issues for the audience on the sides, they kept their faces engaged which is often not the case with choirs.
Number four - The lighting design by Natasha Nash. I love a fun, colorful show that makes good use of backlighting and gobos (theatre lingo for the thing that makes lights turn into shapes like snowflakes or menorahs). Natasha’s lighting design added a lot to the show. The lights helped appropriately set the mood, focus our attention where it needed to be, and it even made its own punchline. Many of the numbers really grew with her design, two numbers of which I will talk more about later in this list.
Number three - The scenic design by Jerry Dennis. This set is absolutely perfect for a holiday review…moveable, sparkly, and able to be used in a variety of ways. I was struggling to understand why, with such nicely moving and simple pieces, the transitions were so unnecessarily long. However, the pieces designed were well done, and truly added the most to the ‘holiday’ feel of the show.
Number two - is not what I would expect from a holiday show. There were five young ladies (Olivia Grenias, Lexie Schultz, Felicity Seares-Chabot, Jenna Glazier, and Rhiannon Hall) who put together their own rendition of “Burn” from Hamilton. Very clearly these young ladies loved this piece and worked hard on it. It was a wonderful showcase for each of their beautiful voices. Each singer worked together nicely, had their own beautiful acting moments and were committed to telling the story truthfully. There was nothing holiday about this number but it was done very well. The lighting design for this number was stellar as well, which I mentioned I would come back to… and also ‘called’ beautifully.
For any non-theatre folk reading this, that refers to the Stage Manager or Assistant Stage Manager who tells the person running lights when each light should change to the next cue. Calling a show is quite an art; however, it is easy not to notice because the beauty of a ‘good call’ is to make it so right, you only notice if it goes wrong.
My top, number one favorite moment of this show was The Sugar Plum Fairy dance duet done by Kailee Russell and Jenny Lee. The concept of a dancer performing while her, only slightly off-stage, understudy is doing the moves backstage, and eventually becoming an onstage duel of two dance divas, is a treasure trove of funny. The lighting design of this number was integral…the icing on the cake, but the cherry on top…the absolute best moment, was a brief acting moment. A sharp transition from performance smile to incensed ballerina amidst a flurry of Chainé turns as the lead soloist sees her understudy coming for her. Well done, Kailee Russell!
There should also be an honorable mention for “Gee, Officer Krupke” which delighted many, including my family.
There are two more nights of Home for the Holidays, December 5th and 6th at 7:30pm. The tickets are $15 for general admission seating and can be bought at their box office or by going to: https://www.etix.com/ticket/v/14187