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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Daddy D’s Christmas’ hits key notes in Green Bay

Critic At Large

Daddy D Productions

Daddy D Productions’ “Daddy D’s Christmas” at Riverside Ballroom, Dec. 15, 2021. (Warren Gerds)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Festive and reverent.

Sound like a Christmas show?

Add funny, and you have “Daddy D’s Christmas.”

The 2021 edition has been a sellout for Daddy D Productions show troupe of Green Bay, although that comes with an asterisk. For COVID-19 considerations, seating at tables in Riverside Ballroom is spaced in pods of two or more.

Even so, a full house is a full house, and that puts an extra zip in the step of performers, and that puts zip in the responses of audiences.

In Wednesday night’s performance, the responses included for wild swings in the show, including this sequence:

First, gales of laughter. Darren Johnson and Shelly Johnson come out dressed in blaze orange coats to tell tales of the outdoors. One is about a mermaid who grants wishes to three ice fishermen. The telling comes complete with goofy sound effects from Darren Johnson, who especially has his comedy mojo working for this show. The bit winds up in the rap song “Ice, Ice Baby” with Shelly Johnson dancing like a rubber band and doing spins on her rump on the floor.

Next, hushed listening for sacred meanings. The song also is the troupe’s traditional salute to service men and women. In “O Holy Night,” Michael Blair carefully, care-fully builds the hallowed song to a lustrous climax with the final notes seeming to hang in the air.

There were even a few mid-show standing ovations.

The band received a partial one for unleashing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version of “Carol of the Bells.”

Darren Johnson received a fuller standing ovation for “Mary Did You Know” with is trademark way of working is voice through all sorts of shadings, including his notable deep POWER.

The production includes popular holiday favorites, both cheery and solemn. Early in the show, Darren Johnson, Shelly Johnson, Angela Thielke Zuidmulder and Michael Blair serve notice of their musicality in an a cappella version of “Carol of the Bells.” In a way, the song says, “We sing for real.”

Kevin Van Ess, master of the clarinet, is featured in “Jingle Bells” done only the way the showman can do it. In his mix are a comical tiff with Darren Johnson, an explosive red-sparkly jacket and reducing his instrument down to a nub – the final toot being a hoot.

More comedy comes from Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder and Shelly Johnson with a “Kohl’s Cash” version of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (spending). Perhaps the biggest splash of cleverness is a Wisconsin-y version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” There’s no partridge in a pear tree the true love gives but “A deer stand for up in da tree.”

Amid the big displays and up tones is an oasis: “O Come O Come Emanuel” played with refreshing delicacy by pianist Nate Kinzel and violinist Alicia Michelle. Ahhh.

Altogether, it’s a funny-bone tickling, soul-satisfying show.

***

Running time: One hour, 53 minutes

Remaining performances at Riverside Ballroom): Dec. 16-18 all SOLD OUT

Additional performance at Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22. Info: ashwaubenonpac.org.

Company: Michael Blair (vocals), Dan Collins (sound and lights), Darren Johnson (vocals and leader), Shelly Johnson (vocals), Nate Kinzel (keyboard), Alicia Michelle (violin), Steve Seitz (drums), Ryan Sette (guitar), Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder (vocals), Kevin Van Ess (clarinet and saxophone)

***

Musical selections

Act I

“Wizards in Winter” (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) – Band

“We Need a Little Christmas” – All

“Carol of the Bells” – All a cappella

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

Comedy: “12 Days of Christmas,” Wisconsin style – Darren Johnson, Shelly Johnson

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” – Shelly Johnson, joined by Darren Johnson

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Darren Johnson

“Away in a Manger”/“I Can Only Imagine” – Shelly Johnson, joined Darren Johnson and Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

Comedy: Letters requestind advice

“Jingle Bells”/novelty routine – Kevin Van Ess, clarinet

“The Christmas Shoes” – Michael Blair

Comedy: Reporting missing jingles to policeman – Darren Johnson, Michael Blair

“O Come O Come Emanuel” – Nate Kinzel, piano, Alicia Michelle, violin

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – All

Act II

“Sleigh Ride”/“Go Tell It on the Mountain” – All

“Silent Night” – Shelly Johnson, joined by others

“The Man with the Bag” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

“Mary Did You Know” – Darren Johnson

Comedy: Kohl’s Cash ditty to “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” – Shelly Johnson, Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – Michael Blair

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

Comedy: Deer hunters, ice fisherers with a mermaid – Darren Johnson, Shelly Johnson

“Ice, Ice Baby” – Darren Johnson, Shelly Johnson, rap moves

Services salute: “O Holy Night” – Michael Blair

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Shelly Johnson

“Carol of the Bells” (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) – Band

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas”/“Hallelujah Chorus” – All

***

NEXT: “Daddy D’s New Year’s Eve,” Dec. 31, Riverside Ballroom.

THE VENUE: The spacious Riverside Ballroom Crystal Ballroom is the heart of the 1936 Art Moderne building on Green Bay’s east side. Performances are on a raised stage on which rock ‘n’ roll legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper performed a famed concert Feb. 1, 1959, the night before they died in an airplane crash in Iowa. In the lobby is a special display, a living remembrance, of color photographs from that night at the Riverside along with Holly memorabilia that captures the era. Much was donated by Gregory J. Kochiss. Seating is at round tables on the ballroom floor. The ballroom features high, sweeping, laminated wood beams with streamlined, curved decoration at the base of each beam. Hanging from the ceiling are Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Imagine the Green Bay Packers holding practice inside the ballroom. That happened a few times, according to a Packers Heritage Trail plaque outside. Nearby flows the East River, thus the Riverside Ballroom. The Riverside has been the “home court” for Daddy D Productions in recent years.

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