SVSU’s Home for the Holidays Evokes the Theatre and the Tinsel
By Jonah Conner
As a graduate from SVSU, I know the two sides of coming home to family for the holidays. Number one being the joy of spending time with family and friends, while having an admiration for the hope and sense of Christmas. Number two… the consistent question from relatives close or distant of “So, what can you do with a theatre degree?” I cannot count how many times I’ve put on a fake smile while coming up with an explanation, or try to divert the topic with a sense of dread and sheer panic. But SVSU’s Home for the Holidays connected that hope of Christmas to the hope of success that one tries to hold with a degree in the arts. And this reviewer thanks them.
So what is Home for the Holidays? In short: a variety show filled with holiday pieces, as well as dashes of musical theatre thrown in. There are your holiday numbers such as “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”, or “Frosty, the Snowman”, as well as numbers from the musical Hamilton or West Side Story. Traditionally the plot for a variety show is very loose, but the plot line for this one is Scott (portrayed by Scott LaMont) is bringing home his girlfriend Olivia (portrayed by Olivia Greanias) for the holidays. After a short introduction a family member asks Scott and Olivia, “What can one do with a theatre degree?” As they explain the couple recalls performances they have seen or have been a part of at school, which is where the songs or performances come in. Performances range from but are not limited to: musical theatre, dance, stories, monologues, songs performed by SVSU’s Cardinal Singers, and piano by Kevin Cole.
Director and Choreographer Karla Kash assembled a very talented group of artists that created an enjoyable evening for young and old alike. Not staying in a state of drama or comedy for too long a time, she creates a flow that doesn’t seem to drag or feel rushed. Her staging worked well with the scenic design by Jerry Dennis, using levels and creating beautiful pictures whether you sit near or far. The scenic design was simple, but allowed for a fine use of the large stage at the Malcolm Field theatre. An interior entrance of a home decked out for Christmas, large platforms on wheels that could be oriented in different positions, and snowflakes in front of an ever changing scrim curtain supported the action on the stage.
Lighting design by Natasha Nash was well executed. For a variety show the lighting could be super simplified, but Nash made some great use of opposites. One moment the stage is bursting with color and flooded with lights for big cheerful Christmas numbers, then stark and focussed between a piano and two women (“Believe”). Sound design by Isaiah Powell was also well done. Having to mix between tracks and live music can be jarring to audience members, but I didn’t notice any moments of being perturbed. I must admit as well that I couldn’t help but jam at the intermission music. Well done indeed. Costume design by Karlie Sherwood did not hinder or get in the way of any performances, which is a blessing to anyone running around, falling, dancing, and the like. The costumes were a great amount of variety needed for a variety show. For “Gee, Officer Krupke” the gentleman were in their ruffian wear, and in a sweet story of the golden wrapped Christmas present the actress was in a blue sequined gorgeous gown. And it made a touching intimate moment much more impactful with the dress.
This review would be too long if I had the chance to call out every single performance that I enjoyed, so I will stick to my favorites. The first being Kevin Cole’s set during the first act. The music filled the whole theatre and I felt that sense of Christmas magic. I believe that we associate some of that magic to the songs of the season, and this one definitely brings out the heart of Christmas. SVSU’s Cardinal Singers were sprinkled throughout the show, and you know that they do a good job when you get excited seeing the people in the crimson jackets walk out. Harmonies were pleasing to the ear, but you could tell on their faces that this was their passion, and that is so thrilling to see. Jared Kaufman was a strong member of the ensemble. From tapping, to shlupping with the guys, he is definitely one that will stand out in your mind. Lexie Schultz also puts her all into the dances, but delivers some powerful vocals in the duet “Believe”, and as a member of the five women team for “First Burn.” I say women because they are fierce, confident, and will rock your socks off at the end of act one. Lastly, I wanted to point out the performer, Danielle Durst, who delivered the monologue/story of the golden wrapped present. She didn’t overdo it, but gave the story enough fortitude that I became moved by such a short story.
My issues with the show were small but I would be remiss if I did not mention them. I wished for the transitions between pieces were a bit shorter and the running around and falling of the actors during "Gee, Officer Krupke" was slowed down because I was worried for the performers safety. Overall a very well done Christmas show.
Home for the Holidays runs through Sunday, December 6th at SVSU’s Malcolm Field Theatre. Tickets are $15 and are available either online (www.etix.com/ticket/v/14187) or at the box office.