LAKESHORE REGIONAL NEWS: Door County, Kewaunee County, Manitowoc County, and Sheboygan County

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Home for the Holidays’ thrives on originality in Fish Creek

Critic At Large

Northern Sky Theater

Scene from “Home for the Holidays” with Doc Heide, from left, Karen Mal and Matt Zembrowski. (Katie Dahl)

FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – A show with people who create is going to be special.

The 2021 edition of “Home for the Holidays” is such.

Together are three Northern Sky Theater stars of varied stripes in a year-end celebration entertaining in ways they know best.

Each presents original songs.

Each sings and plays an instrument or two.

Each tells personal stories.

All are engaging.

And then there is a big word: Transcendent. Each gets there in his or her way: beyond or above the range of normal or merely physical human experience.

For four more performances to Saturday, Dec. 31, Doc Heide, Karen Mal and Matt Zembrowski will hold forth in Barbara and Spencer Gould Theater.

Early moment Dec. 27, 2021. (Katie Dahl)

Fred “Doc” Heide is one of the founders of the company. The cosmic thread of many of the company’s original shows owes a lot to the weavings of his mind. In this show, he’s got more such wonders, from comical to profound.

Karen Mal has been present at oh so many beginnings of shows along the way, her voice and musicianship among the company’s guideposts.

Matt Zembrowski is a newer force in the really hard creative trifecta of book-music-lyrics, and in this show is heard as a singing pianist (keyboardist) of infectious humor.

Does this sound a bit much? Perhaps, but it’s a great show.

The list of songs below doesn’t do justice to what happens. Unseen amid that list are word pictures of homes that created artists out of a home’s better or worst. Some pictures:

Karen Mal, long a resident of Austin, Texas, living on four acres of folky camaraderie and creativity. A dog – Woody – is her starting point for the descriptiveness of “Christmas at Woody’s Place.” Karen Mal’s emotions ripple as she sings.

Matt Zembrowski’s image in a medley of theme songs of Christmas TV specials is that of a father eagerly recording the music that his son now delivers with a tenor voice filled with joy. In the mix are musical glimpses of the Grinch, Charlie Brown, the Berenstain Bears, Garfield and Mickey Mouse, among others.

Doc Heide brings multiple images in a new take on “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” in a comical explanation for the name Packers of his beloved team and in a visit to his mother’s fascination with Julian of Norwich and her “Revelations of Devine Love” of the 14th /15th centuries in his and embracing “All Shall Be Well.”

Doc Heide is transcendentalism on the hoof. He opens the show with nimble guitar playing and soon nimbly works the audience, warming folks about their “smiling eyes” above the required face masks and launching into a COVID-19 twist on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Included in laughable desperate acts, we “had to go store to store to keep our keister clean” – a pure Doc Heide line.

This and that:

+ On opening day Monday, two-thirds of the house raised hands as being in the Gould Theater for the first time.

+ A campfire is lighted at a gathering spot outside before and after the performance.

Campfire after show, Dec. 27, 2021. (Katie Dahl)

+ Doc Heide teases Illinois along the way, knowing there are such audience members. He has a way-out way of reminding them where they are – by choice.

+ The performers respect one another’s creative space and also work as a team.

+ And, holy cow, there is no other place to be comically reverent about the manger scene to question “What is lowing?” and then, as the song says, “Celebrate the Holy Cow.” A transcendent show, yes.

***

Running time: One hour, 15 minutes (no intermission)

Remaining performances: 4 p.m. Dec. 28-31

Info: northernskytheater.com

Note: Masks are required of audience members due to COVID-19 concerns. Also, this from the company: “All patrons (except those under 5 years of age) must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or obtain a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the performance.”

Performers/songwriters:

Fred “Doc” Heide – vocals, guitar

Karen Mal – vocals, ukulele, guitar

Matt Zembrowski – vocals, keyboard

***

Musical selections

“Joy to the World” – Doc Heide guitar solo

“What a Pity What a Shame” – Doc Heide, all

“Away in a Manger” – Karen Mal

COVID-19 take on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (a la Doc Heide) – All

“Christmas at Woody’s Place” (Karen Mal) – Karen Mal

“Holiday TV Themes” – Matt Zembrowski

“Celebrate the Holy Cow” (Doc Heide) – Doc Heide, all

“What am I Supposed to Do with All Those Cookies” (Matt Zembrowski) – Matt Zembrowski

“Follow That Star” (Doc Heide) – Doc Heide

“This is My Christmas Wish for You” (Karen Mal) – Karen Mal

Take on Packers name (Doc Heide) with music of “Deck the Halls” – Doc Heide

“Three Wishes for Christmas” (song scratched from “Gypsy”) – Matt Zembrowski

“All Shall Be Well” (Doc Heide) – Doc Heide (guitar) and Matt Zembrowski, vocals, Karen Mal, ukulele

“Peace Carol” – Matt Zembrowski

“There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” – All

Gould Theatre in winter, Dec. 27, 2021. (Warren Gerds)

***

VENUE: Barbara and Spencer Gould Theater is located in the Northern Sky Theater Creative Center, 9058 Door County Road A near Fish Creek. The 248-seat theater carries two themes – wooded Wisconsin and a carryover of Northern Sky Theater’s summer home in Peninsula State Park Amphitheater. Height factors in. As do tall pine trees in and around the stage of the amphitheater, the knotty pine wall to the audience’s left reaches three stories. To the right, the woodsy outside is brought in through 28-foot-high windows (in two sections) that are shuttered by huge wood shutters during performances. Color schemes are gray and taupe – gray in the seat cushions and aisle carpeting and taupe in the wooden seat backs and arms, with the wood walls, stage front and shutters finished to taupe. The stage curtain is midnight blue, as are acoustical clouds on the ceiling. The stage floor is unique to the region, arcing in from the rear of the theater along the side walls to the front. In the shoulders of the main stage, space is open for scenes to take place (with set pieces) in addition to action on the main stage. The space was designed by Peter Tan of the Madison-based Strang, Inc.

Lobby display. (Warren Gerds)

THE PEOPLE: Barbara and Spencer Gould were longtime Door County philanthropists. They were residents since 1988, after years of residing in St. Louis and being summer residents. Spencer Gould died March 7, 2021, at the age of 90 in Kirkwood, Missouri.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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