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Syracuse Stage Comes ‘Home for the Holidays’
Syracuse Stage celebrates the joy and comfort of home this holiday season with the fully digital production “Home for the Holidays,” a heartwarming show filled with favorite songs and instrumental music, dancing and fond memories, available as video on demand starting Dec. 15.
The show is directed and devised by Ricky Pak, who this year joined the faculty of the Department of Drama. Experienced as a teaching artist with the New York-based Tectonic Theatre Project, Pak is well versed in devising original theater works using personal stories and other material. He will call on his experience to create “Home for the Holidays.”
Pak describes “Home for the Holidays” as: “An evening of holiday songs and storytelling all inspired by real-life interviews gathered from Syracuse Stage cast members, past and present; Syracuse University Drama students who were originally cast in ‘Miss Bennet;’ and several longtime Syracuse Stage patrons. This show will be a mix of storytelling and musical performances exploring the theme of what ‘Home for the Holidays’ means to all of us.”
“Home for the Holidays” replaces the previously announced “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” which was removed from the season line-up due to recently heightened rehearsal and performance restrictions implemented by the union for professional actors and stage managers (Actors’ Equity Association) in response to the steady increase of COVID-19 cases in Central New York. “Home for the Holidays” will be produced in an innovative way so that the cast can rehearse and perform without having to be together in the same space.
“This past year has certainly been a roller coaster of ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns, but through it all we’ve been committed to finding innovative and engaging ways to continue our work as Syracuse’s storytellers,” says Artistic Director Bob Hupp. “‘Home for the Holidays’ highlights what this special time of year means to us now. For the past several years, we’ve created holiday experiences for you to share with the entire family. We’re continuing that tradition now with a unique and personal theatrical celebration that I know you’ll enjoy.”
Helping Pak with the musical numbers and also appearing in the show ensconced behind a baby grand piano is music director Brian Cimmet. Cimmet is very familiar to Syracuse Stage audiences having served as musical director for the holiday shows for many seasons, including most recently “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” “Elf the Musical,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins” and many more.
The cast, too, includes some familiar faces. David Lowenstein has appeared in many Syracuse Stage holiday productions, including “A Christmas Carol,” “Hairspray” (Edna), “The Wizard of Oz,” “Elf the Musical,” and “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” (Cogsworth). Joining Lowenstein are “Beauty and the Beast” castmate Cicily Daniels (Mrs. Potts) and Lisa Helmi Johanson, who appeared in “Amadeus” as Mozart’s wife, Constanze. Daniels has appeared in four Broadway shows: “Once on this Island,” “The Little Mermaid” (original understudy for Ursula), “All Shook Up,” and “Rent.” Among Johanson’s credits are the off-Broadway and National Tour of “Avenue Q” and the National Tour of “Into the Woods.”
New to Syracuse Stage is Rufus Bonds Jr., who is also a newly appointed member of the Department of Drama faculty. Bonds’ considerable career includes Broadway productions of “Rent,” “Once on This Island,” and “Parade,” for which he earned a Drama Desk Nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His national tours include “The Color Purple” as Mister, “The Lion King” as Mufasa and “Miss Saigon” as John.
Pak said he has found the process of creating the show to be rewarding.
“We have been having conversations with various members of the Syracuse Stage community, getting to know their holiday traditions and memories,” he says. “We’ve laughed and cried with them, sharing in their memories and learning about what is truly important to each of them as we enter the holiday season. The students and I then met, along with our musical director Brian Cimmet, to talk about what parts of the interviews resonate with us and how we can craft a story from what we have learned. We see the commonalities and differences we have in our stories and find the thread that links us all together.”
Finding unity and togetherness is the spirit Pak hopes carries through to the audience.
“We are hoping to quite literally open our homes to the audience with the stories and music we are sharing and that we can only share in this way because of the pandemic,” he says. “It will be a uniquely intimate show full of laughter and tears that connects us during these historically challenging times.”
To access “Home for the Holidays,” patrons need only a valid e-mail address and a device for viewing, such as a desktop, laptop, smart TV or tablet. “Tickets” are $30 and are available at www.SyracuseStage.org and through the Box Office (315.443.3275; Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).