Encore Michigan

‘Home For The Holidays’ returns to The Dio with Christmas cookies and candy canes

Review November 23, 2019 David Kiley

PINCKNEY, Mich. – Dio artistic director Steve DeBruyne is back at it. Running his theatre with partner Matt Tomich, playing the lead in Home for The Holidays, waiting tables and running the room. He’s as busy as Santa in December.

Home for The Holidays is an original show written by DeBruyne and Tomich, and the Dio patrons love it. As in past years, the show is nearly sold out for the run.

It is a classic show within a show. The story revolves around a troupe doing a holiday show. But there are two dramas unfolding. One, the female lead of the show, Portia (Molly Cunningham) , is hold up in her dressing room suffering from separation anxiety from her serviceman beau, Eric (Isaac Alonzo), who can’t make it home for Christmas. Meanwhile, Chris (DeBruyne), the male lead, is being nasty to everyone, including Portia’s understudy, Belinda (Monica Spencer) who has a huge heart, but only iffy talent. Chris is enduring his first Christmas without his mother –his single mother – his emotional rock, who has died earlier in the year.

As befits a Christmas story, there is a certain amount of magic and “believing,” led by stage manager Nick (Jim Moll) and Mrs. C (Anne Bauman), and the Clauses manage to pull off a bit of a miracle in the show.

What makes Home for The Holiday’ a favorite among the Dio faithful is the classic songs, arranged in funny dance numbers. “Snow,” “Cool Yule,” Santa Baby,” What are you doing New Year’s Eve,” “Hard Candy Christmas,” “All I want for Christmas is You,” and more. One of the big highlights and show stoppers is “Here Comes Santa Claus” sung by the irrepressible Jared Schneider, playing the nervous and twitchy Jimmy, who delights the audience with his tap skills.

The Franklin Sisters, a trio of singers on the cast, played by Sarah Brown, Kimberly Alley and Bronsyn Lee Sacker are delightful, and Ms. Brown anchors a lot of the scenes as she emerges as Chris’s love interest and knocks the audience back with her angelic vocals.

Brian E Buckner who also did the original arrangements for this original show, is music director. Mr. Buckner energizes the familiar tunes with his snappy keyboard work while leading Justin Sherman on drums and Leer Sobie on bass.

It helps with a show like this that DeBruyne gets some of the same players back each time: Moll, Bauman, Schneider and Sarah Brown. Haydn Reboulet, Lydia Adams, Alexis Benson, Dante Justice and Carrie Sayer round out the ensemble. Vaan Otto and Reed Koesel are double cast as Young Christopher for a flashback scene to Big Chris’s childhood.

The fun of this show is that the actors have license to be quirky and hammy in places. And when something goes a little amiss it all just seems like part of the show and fun.

Sure, some of the story and dialogue gets as hokey as an elf on a shelf, or an Andy Williams Christmas special (for those who remember), but it’s all part of the fabric of fun that is the show people flock back to every time the Dio stages it. Seeing Home for The Holidays at The Dio for many has become a tradition as hanging ornaments made in Sunday School, chestnuts on the fire, cutting down a Christmas tree or plum pudding.

The dinner at the Dio that precedes the show is a choice between the Dio’s fired chicken or ham, potatoes, green beans and salad. At intermission, we had cookies baked by Matt Tomich. It is indeed….Home for The Holidays.

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