Friday, December 20, 2019

"Happy Holi-Dane" at History Theatre

A few nights ago, I attended a super fun old fashion holiday variety show, live! The one night only event Happy Holi-Dane was presented as part of the History Theatre's new History Theatre presents series. Hosted by Dane Stauffer, star of History Theatre's smash hit original musical Glensheen (which is returning next summer to St. Paul and Alexandria), the show also featured Dane's talented friends, including some of the Glensheen cast. Dane is an amiable and personable host, and the evening was full of songs, skits, laughs, singalongs, and touching moments, just like those holiday variety specials of old.

If you're going to do a musical variety show, why not get the Twin Cities' favorite pianist Dan Chouinard as musical director? Dane was smart enough to do that, and also enlist his brother Kris to play in the four-piece band. The cast included the women of Glensheen (Jennifer Maren, Ruthie Baker, and Sandra Struthers) singing some lovely Andrews Sisters harmony, and reunited Dane with the fab singing men of When a Man Loves a Diva (Julius Collins and Ben Bakken). Rounding out the cast was the always hilarious Beth Gilleland with skits and stories, and Leslye Orr on sound effects. Performing solo and in groups of various sizes and combinations, it was a wonderful showcase of #TCTheater talent (see songlist below).

The set of Beyond the Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall (closing this weekend!), was festooned with Christmas trees and other holiday decor. The cast was dressed up in festive gear as well. The evening featured a couple dozen holiday songs, as well as some non-holiday songs that had special meaning to the performers. Most were traditional, but with a nice mix of more contemporary selections, and some fun new arrangements of familiar songs. In addition to the music, they did a few old timey radio comedy skits, my favorite of which was Dane and Beth's sketch about a very modern couple. And what truly made the show truly special is that the performers shared their memories, losses, and loves, all of which come together for that bittersweet holiday mix that we can all relate to.

Coming up after the holidays is another special event at History Theatre - their annual "Raw Stages" new works festival (including a new Hatcher/Poling musical). 70% of the plays and musicals that the History Theatre produces are originals, and Raw Stages is an important part in that development process.

Here's the songlist from the show: