Wednesday, December 20, 2023

"Happy Holi-Dane" at the History Theatre

In addition to fully staged (and usually original) plays and musicals, and readings of new works (that eventually become the former), the History Theatre is presenting a series of concerts this season. I attended the first of four last night, an old-fashioned holiday* variety show called Happy Holi-Dane. Amiable host Dane Stauffer (star of History Theatre's smash hit original musical Glensheen) has been doing this show for several years. I hadn't seen it since 2019, and this year's show was similar but different, with a slightly different cast of special guests. A great time was had by all, but if you missed it, don't worry. You still have an opportunity to see concerts headlined by Thomasina Petrus, Lori Dokken, and the History Theatre's own Buddy Holly - Nicholas Freeman (click here for details, dates, and tickets). And get ready for readings of five new works in Raw Stages 2024 in January.

Happy Holi-Dane feels like one of those variety shows you used to see on TV, hosted by Andy Williams or Bing Crosby or The Carpenters - a mix of songs new and old, comedy sketches, and personal stories from the cast. Dane is a great host and sets a playful, informal tone, engaging the audience in the fun (including a few singalongs). My favorite pianist Dan Chouinard once again serves as Music Director, accompanying the cast on piano and keeping up with all of their shenanigans, and leading the three-piece band (Dane's brother Kris on guitar and Tait Cameron on drums). Dane enlisted his talented friends to join him, including those famous sisters from Glensheen, Jen Maren and Sandra Struthers, along with Lee Adams, Doug Anderson, Erin Schwab, and Beth Gilleland

Highlights of the show include:
  • The opening group number gave alternate, more realistic, lyrics to "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"
  • Lee had a series of comedy sketches in which he played Santa, with help from various elves
  • Sandra told a charming story about her French mother and her disappointment in American versions of French desserts (and sang a couple of lovely songs)
  • Jen's comic take on "Good King Wenceslas" played with the unpronounceable name, and she once again shared a touching "Count Your Blessings"
  • Beth told a hilarious story about the time she played an elephant clown in the Holidazzle parade
  • Doug strutted his stuff singing about a drag queen Christmas
  • Dan opened the second act with the famous music from A Charlie Brown Christmas, with the cast doing their best impressions of the cartoon characters (and just in general watching Dan effortlessly tickle the ivories is so entertaining)
  • As always, Erin brought "the funny and the filth" with her rendition of Barbra's "Jingle Bells" and a song asking what bad girls get for Christmas (pro tip: anytime you have a chance to watch Erin perform - take it! she's often at Crooners, including a New Year's Eve-Eve show)
  • Dane brought his own unique style to some classic Christmas songs, "White Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" (duet with Kris), and some not so classic (I'm not sure what "Downtown" has to do with Christmas, but it was fun)
Happy Holi-Dane has become a classic itself, one that will hopefully return year after year!

*Read about all of the holiday shows I've seen this year here, and listen to the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers holiday preview episode of our podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat here