Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Home for the Holidays’ again engaging in Fish Creek

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In the final week of each year, Northern Sky Theater puts on a performance titled “Home for the Holidays” in Old Gibraltar Town Hall.

The title and the place stay the same.

The cast changes from year to year.

Songs change from year to year.

The overall tone of warmth and camaraderie stays the same.

Performances tend to feel homey and relaxed.

And so it is with the 2017 edition of “Home for the Holidays,” which opened Wednesday to a sold-out house and will close Sunday, Dec. 31, to a sold-out house – and has lots of folks coming in between.

Performing in this show are three skilled and sensitized musicians who this year presented an album-release concert of songs by Northern Sky Theater co-founder Fred Alley – Katie Dahl, Eric Lewis and Rich Higdon.

Two of Alley’s song are in this concert. One, “Solid Ground,” contains the line, “I’ll leave my song for you to carry on.”

Prescient?

It sure seems that way with this threesome.

The concert has a certain spirit.

It also pushes the envelope. One sequence Wednesday held the audience breathless because of this: Eric Lewis is a string instrument whiz. He is playing mandolin. Also playing mandolins are Rich Higdon and Katie Dahl – though the instrument for them is a second or third language. Higdon and Dahl are trying to keep up with Eric Lewis’ lead on tunes everybody knows, starting with “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Little plinks in dinks pop up in their playing as Eric Lewis steams on, but a chorus emerges… the playing is intent (as in firm resolve)… the listening is intense… and the effort and result become golden/wonderful.

***

Performers: Katie Dahl, guitar, mandolin, vocals; Rich Higdon, bass, ukulele, percussion, mandolin, vocals; Eric Lewis, guitars, mandolin, vocals

Running time: One hour, 15 minutes

Remaining performances: 4 p.m. Dec. 28, 4 p.m. Dec. 29, 4 and 7 p.m. Dec. 30, 4 p.m. Dec. 31 (sold out)

Info: northernskytheater.com

***

Musical selections

“Listen to the Angels” – Katie Dahl

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

“Angel Dream” – Eric Lewis

“Lombardi Avenue” (Katie Dahl) – Katie Dahl

“Jingle Bells” – Eric Lewis, mandolin, Rich Higdon, spoons

“Solid Ground” (Fred Alley) – Eric Lewis, Katie Dahl

“Christmas in the Trenches” (John McCutcheon) – Katie Dahl

“O Little Town of Bethlehem”/“Ode to Joy”/“Angels We Have Heard on High” – mandolin trio: Eric Lewis, Katie Dahl, Rich Higdon

“Don’t Go Down to Aurora” (Fred Alley) – Katie Dahl

Guitar solo (Eric Lewis) – Eric Lewis

“It Wasn’t His Child” (Skip Ewing) – Eric Lewis

“How’d You Like to Spend Christmas on Christmas Island” – Rich Higdon, ukulele, vocals, Eric Lewis, guitar

“Here Comes Santa Claus” – Katie Dahl; Eric Lewis, mandolin

“In the Dark” (Katie Dahl) – Katie Dahl

“Where is the Light”/“This Little Light of Mine” – Katie Dahl, Rich Higdon, Eric Lewis

***

VENUE: Old Gibraltar Town Hall, built around 1880, is dominated by white on its exterior and interior. The building near the shore of Fish Creek Harbor in Fish Creek was restored as a project of Gibraltar Historical Association. Among its functions, the rectangular hall is a performance space, with a raised stage that includes an optional stage curtain. The space is historical for Northern Sky Theater as the site of its first fall production, “And If Elected” in 1992, and, in 2014, as the site for its final production under the name of American Folklore Theatre. The organization officially became Northern Sky Theater on Jan. 1, 2015. The fiber board ceiling and wood walls are plain save for historical photos on the walls and wainscoting rimming the lower walls. The floor is of narrow wood strips. Seating for a capacity of 135 is on folding chairs. The space works quite well for folky performances.

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.

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