Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: 2018 ‘Daddy D’s Christmas’ Blends Reverence, Bits of Corn

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Reading a song title and seeing/hearing the song performed are two different things when it comes to Daddy D Productions and its “Daddy D’s Christmas.”

+ Take “Little Drummer Boy.” That’s a standard song of the season. Darren Johnson sings it a standard way as drummer Cody Borley adds standard flourishes. Then action turns toward the Caribbean in Johnson’s singing style. And then Johnson leaves the stage as Borley and the rest of the band let rip with rock ‘n’ roll heat.

+ Take “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” That’s a real standard, and cute. Darren Johnson and the band jump into it as a polka romp. Soon enough, they’re doing “Frosty the Snowman,” complete with polka-flavored audience chants.

+ Take “Mele Kalikamaka.” That’s standard if you happen to live in Hawaii. Singers Maria Hinnendael, Shelly Johnson and Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder come out dressed something like elves – not in red or green but pink, and with feathery/frilly fringes on their sleeves and collars. Cute. Fun.

+ Take “Away in a Manger.” You can almost hear a child’s voice singing, but this time the song opens with gentle tones of violin by Alicia Michelle. Shelly Johnson joins in singing in familiar ways. And then the song turns into the contemporary “I Can Only Image” that includes a wondering narrative. Johnson’s voice grows and grows in brightness and intensity.

Daddy D Productions’ Christmas shows always include ample reverence. Each singer has at least one solo that keeps Christmas in Christmas – beautifully done or in robust voice in the case of troupe leader Darren Johnson. Songs often come with special instrumental touches of piano (Barb Hinnendael), violin (Alicia Michelle) and/or reeds (Kevin Van Ess).

The shows always have a sense of celebration and fun. The goofiest this year is the made-up act called The Sweeney Sisters with Shelly Johnson and Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder giggling and jabbering through a Grade B “act” of tunes that include “Bells” in them. Bonkers.

Wednesday’s opening night at Stadium View Bar & Grille was met by a standing ovation. Ten performances remain for “Daddy D’s Christmas” at four locations – the Green Bay show troupe’s way of spreading holiday cheer.


Musical selections

Part I

“Trans-Siberian Orchestra-Christmas Eve/Sarajevo” – Band (keyboard – Barb Hinnendael; guitar – Jeff Hinnendael; saxophones/clarinet – Kevin Van Ess; violin – Alicia Michelle; bass – Ryan Sette; drums – Cody Borley; sound and lights – Dan Collins

“Christmas in the Air” – Darren Johnson

“O Come All Ye Faithful” – Maria Hinnendael

“Do You See What I See” – Angela Thielke-Zuidumulder

“Away in a Manger”/“I Can Only Imagine” – Shelly Johnson, with Alicia Michelle, violin

“It’s Christmas All Over Again” – Jeff Hinnendael

Comedy routine: Ernestine the operator speaks to the North Pole – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

Humor bit: Married at 46 – Darren Johnson

“Mary Did You Know?” – Darren Johnson

“Jingle Bell Rock” – Kevin Van Ess, saxophones

Humor bit: Deer hunting honeymoon – Darren Johnson, Shelly Johnson

Comedy song on flu season: “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Sickness” – Darren Johnson

“Mele Kilikimaka” – Maria Hinnendael, Shelly Johnson, Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

Part II

Comedy routine: The Sweeney Sisters’ “Bells” medley – Shelly Johnson, Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

“Little Drummer Boy” – Darren Johnson, with Cody Borley, drums

“O Come O Come Emanuel” – Alicia Michelle, violin, with Barb Hinnendael, keyboard

Humor bit: Siblings – Darren Johnson

“The Way We Were”/“The Christmas Song” – Maria Hinnendael

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”/ “Frosty the Snowman” – Darren Johnson

“What Child is This” – Angela Thielke-Zuidmulder

Comedy routine: Magic Christmas Boom Box – Darren Johnson, Shelly Johnson

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

“O Holy Night” – Maria Hinnendael

Military salute: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Darren Johnson

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


Running time: One hour, 55 minutes

Remaining performances

++ Dec. 6, 7, 8: The Stadium View Bar & Grille, Ashwaubenon

++ Dec. 11: Northwinds Banquet Hall, Marion.

++ Dec. 12, 13 (with additional matinee), 14, 15: Riverside Ballroom, Green Bay.

++ Dec.  21 (show only): Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center, Ashwaubenon.

Info: daddydproductions.com


VENUE: Stadium View Bar and Grille was built in 1992. Today, it houses the main sports bar and three banquet halls. “Daddy D’s Christmas” is in the southernmost hall, Traditions. The group performs on a raised stage with a Christmasy backdrop behind the performers. The location is decorated with pine boughs and Christmas ornaments. The space is standard banquet hall – drop ceiling tiles, white walls, straight lines and floor. Seating is at round tables, eight persons to a table, with room for approximately 200. Mostly, Stadium View is known as a hot spot surrounding Green Bay Packers games and events.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My latest book, “I Fell Out of a Tree in Fresno (and other writing adventures),” is available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.

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