Review: The Grand Theater show delivers on the promise of finding joy in togetherness

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“Where we love is home, home where our feet can leave, but not our hearts.”
–Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

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These words from Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. are what I feel for theater in general and the Grand Theater in particular.

And that’s why sitting in a seat surrounded by other masked people, I felt joy watching the Grand’s first stage production in 20 months, Home for the Holidays.

No, it’s not the warm, emotion-filled holiday show we’ve come to expect from the Grand, like A Christmas Carol, Mary Poppins, Elf, or Miracle on 34th Street.

But it’s warm, fun, full of holiday cheer and truly a ‘love letter’ to London and all the people from different cultures and circumstances who call this city home, as actor Jacob MacInnis has suggested. earlier this week.

Director Dennis Garnhum, who co-arranged the show’s musical numbers with music supervisor Andrew Petrasiunas, achieved his goal of giving us “a reminder of the joy of coming to the theater, to uplift hearts and want to calm the senses. “.

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Home for the Holidays is a 90 minute theatrical concert filled with holiday songs, many of which I have never heard before, that still remind us of who we are, as individuals and as a community, and the importance of house, love, donation and attention. There are just enough traditional melodies and songs to ignite the memories of older generations.

This show leaves no one behind, regardless of age, religion, culture, race, socio-economic circumstances or sexual orientation, celebrating and including all in our community.

On stage are eight solid actors and singers, including Blythe Wilson, Justin Eddy, Gabi Epstein, Gavin Hope, MacInnis, Masini McDermott, Elena Reyes and Mark Urhe. There are no weak links in this cast, although vocal abilities range from good to exceptional.

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They are not the only ones on stage. Garnhum also put the band on stage and backstage crew members are welcomed and even introduced to remind us that home is so much more than a dwelling; it’s about the people who occupy it.

There is no story to follow, just a series of songs and moments that remind us of home, community and love.

For example, a song that is unmistakably London is When the Lights Come On at Christmas by local songwriter Glenn Bennett, a standard at home and on the lights in Victoria Park.

There are several fun tracks, including Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Sugar Plum Fairy dancing from The Nutcracker and Justin Eddy singing I Hate Christmas from Joe Slabe.

One piece that got a lot of laughs was Why Do I Live Where the Air Hurts My Face by Dan Perrott from Calgary and wonderfully performed by McDermott and Epstein.

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Two different songs with the same title, Home for the Holidays, were featured. Anthony Hamilton and Kelvin Wooten’s debut, which Stevie Wonder recorded, opened the show. The other, by Robert Allen and Al Stillman, which crooner Perry Como sang, should have closed the show, except Garnhum had other plans, adding Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve standard Auld Lang Syne .

Yes, New Year is part of the holiday season and Guy Lombardo is a London icon. It was just out of place, perhaps because it’s such a melancholic tune better suited to the end of a year, not the reboot of live theater.

There’s a gorgeous moment when the cast and crew came together on stage for Indigenous artist Andrea Menard’s Gather Around, which included a shameless (amusingly delivered) promotion of Menard’s show, Rubaboo – Songs and Stories with Andrea Menard coming to the Auburn stage in February.

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Another beautiful moment is when the cast sings a medley of 16 traditional Christmas songs while building a bonfire with sticks adorned with colored lights. It’s a fun ride, featuring hits such as Jingle Bell Rock and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, but ends with the cast singing a nice rendition of Silent Night sitting around the fire. The lighting was far too bright for such a warm and thoughtful moment and would have been enhanced by the simple glow of the lights that made the fire.

Music Director Alexandra Kane, on keyboards, did a fabulous job with the band consisting of Richard Gracious on guitar, Marianna Grigg on cello, Tony De Luca on clarinet, flute and tenor sax, Kayla Purves on bass and Rob Larose on percussion was excellent.

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There was no paper program. Instead, a card bearing a QR code and the Grand’s web address was given, which I think will irritate some who aren’t so digitally savvy or prefer to have it handy for reference.

The Grand also continues its support of the London Food Bank by accepting cash donations in the lobby after the show, a tradition that has raised more than $300,000 over the past five years.

Home for the Holidays delivers on the promise of Garnhum and more, well worth the $50 bill with the added bonus of a chance to check out the new renovations but also, more importantly, get a taste of what some of us might have taken once for granted, live theater.

jbelanger@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JoeBatLFPress


Rating: *** 1/2 stars (out of five)

If you are going to:

What : Home for the Holidays, a theatrical concert organized and directed by Dennis Garnhum, presented by the Grand Théâtre

When : Until December 24.

Or : Grand Theatre, 471 Richmond Street

Tickets : $50 for all seats, available at www.grandtheatre.com , by phone at 519-672-8800, or at the ticket office

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