by Lynn on December 17, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at The Grand Theatre, London, Ont. Until Dec. 24, 2021.

Curator/director, Dennis Garnhum

Curator/musical supervisor, Andrew Petrasiunas

Musical director, Alexandra Kane

Choreographer, Lisa Stevens

Set and costumes by Rachel Forbes

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Sound by Emily Porter

Cast: Justin Eddy

Gabi Epstein

Gavin Hope

Jacob MacInnis

Masini McDermott

Elena Reyes

Mark Uhre

Blythe Wilson

For many people the Grand Theatre in London, Ont. is a warm, welcoming place, as comfortable as coming home. Audiences have routinely flocked there for shows, especially the traditional holiday show. This year’s show was particularly special: it is the first in-person show to play the theatre after being closed by the pandemic for months; it’s the show that welcomes people into the space after a major renovation of its lobby and washrooms. So for Dennis Garnhum, the Grand Theatre’s Artistic Director, the title “Home for the Holidays” is especially symbolic. It’s like saying, ‘welcome home to your theatre.”

Dennis Garnhum and his co-curator Andrew Petrasiunas have compiled a collection of at least 23 songs (Christmas/Chanukkah/holiday) for this time of year and a terrific cast to sing them. There are Christmas songs, funny, irreverent, joyful, traditional and hymns (“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” “I Hate Christmas”, “I Love Christmas”, “Do You Hear What I Hear”, “Home for the Holidays” etc.) Chanukkah is covered with “I Have a Little Dreidel” and “Hanukkah Blessingss.” (Gabi Epstein makes a special effort to express the CH sound in Chanukkah, so I’m spelling it this way, as opposed to how the song is spelled—something is lost without the “C” before the “H”).

The selection of songs represents a cross-section of cultures. The cast beautifully represents those cultures too. Rachel Forbes’ multi-levelled set is packed with bells, wrapped stuff, dazzle and the glitter of the season. Kimberly Purtell’s lighting adds to the sparkle.

Dennis Garnhum also directs the cast to cover every inch of that set. It seems that they are always in motion going from one song to the next or swaying to the infectious music. The cast pay tribute to the returning audience and thanked them for their loyalty. Also thanked are the many people backstage who have worked at the Grand for decades in many cases—from a stage manager, to a carpenter, to a person in the lighting booth. All were brought on stage to receive a warm round of applause. That generosity and appreciation is probably one of the many reasons these hard-working folks love working at that theatre.

On a rather serious note, singer Mark Uhre re-worked a quote from American writer Toni Morrison saying that often the word “Canadian” means white but there are many hyphenated Canadians who don’t fit that description of being “white” and are proudly Canadian as well. (something worth remembering). This was followed by a song about Christmas. I must confess I smiled at the irony of the placement of that song especially after the quote. Many people don’t actually celebrate Christmas. They have other holidays at this time of year with their own traditions and songs. Perhaps another song might have been more appropriate.

Whether a person was going back into the theatre for the first time after the pandemic, or have already gone into a theatre for other shows, Home for the Holidays is a lovely show to celebrate the holidays, to note the specialness of the season, and to gather to enjoy being together.

The Grand Theatre Presents.

Plays until Dec. 24, 2021.

Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.