Thursday, December 15, 2022

"The Holiday Songbook" by Songbook Live! at Lakeshore Players Theatre

After cancelling the first of three planned shows this season at Lakeshore Players Theatre, Songbook Live! is back, and just in time for the holidays! A continuation of the "Broadway Songbook" series that James Rocco started when he was at the Ordway, this series provides background and stories about songs and composers in a specific genre, while talented singers and musicians perform the songs in question. The two-night only Holiday Songbook (sorry, the LPT run is done, but there is a performance in Menomonie WI on the 15th) is a really fun and festive celebration of the holiday music that is so much a part of our culture, especially at this time of the year. One of the announced cast members had to drop out due to illness, but James Rocco, Erin Schwab, and pianist Lori Dokken are about the best trio you could ask for. The three have a great rapport in this loose and fun show, that includes more than one opportunity for a singalong. The next Songbook Live!, at LPT in April, features women songwriters. Click here for more on that, and follow Songbook Live! on Facebook for information about upcoming shows.

This Holiday Songbook included just enough history and facts about the songs and songwriters to satisfy nerds like me, without taking away from the wonderful music. James talked about the origin of holiday music in the form of hymns, the tradition of caroling, and the first popular song about Christmas - Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," written for the 1942 movie Holiday Inn. They performed around a grand piano on the set of Lakeshore Players' A Christmas Story (continuing through this Sunday only), which added a nostalgic and festive touch.

Highlights of the show include:

  • Erin singing "Silent Night" in the original German, as well as her renditions of Barbra Streisand's version of "Jingle Bells," the gorgeous "Breathe of Heaven," and a super fun "All I Want for Christmas is You."
  • Lori's incredible piano accompaniment throughout the show, as well as her backup vocals and solos, including "Carol of the Bells" and a medley from A Charlie Brown Christmas which seemed to delight her as much as it did the audience.
  • James' declaration that The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" is a holiday song because it's about the solstice, and his renditions of Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and the Darlene Love classic "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."