Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Home for the Holidays’ sifts, winnows

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Doc Heide is an inquisitive sort. He got to wondering how far the Three Wise Men of The Christmas Story traveled. Some scholars say Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar – “sounds like a Palestinian law firm,” Heide says – started in Persia. Some say they started in Yemen. To travel to Bethlehem, they would have traveled either 1,700 or 1,300 miles, respectively. Either way, by camel, “it was a really big deal,” Heide says. Their directions weren’t exactly pinpoint: Under a bright star.

This is part of the lead-in to “Follow That Star,” a song Heide wrote for Northern Sky Theater’s 2016 edition of “Home for the Holidays,” a five-performance concert running through Saturday, Dec. 31, in Old Gibraltar Town Hall.

Doc Heide being a creative sort, “Follow That Star” is not a toss-off ditty. Its words explore the perspective of the Three Wise Men. The music involves Heide in lead with colorings all the way through by colleague Holly Feldman, and at the very end added touches by Eric Lewis; to Heide’s guitar lead, Lewis comes in on mandolin to complete a musical illustration of care and reverence.

The stamp of Northern Sky Theater means something, and the first performance of “Home for the Holidays” attracted a sold-out house. The concert is distinctive for how it touches familiar chords and yet explores the new and off-the-beaten track. Imagine buying a new pair of shoes that feel just right right away…There, you’ve got it.

***

Performers: Holly Feldman, vocals, percussion; Doc Heide, vocals, guitars; Eric Lewis, vocals, mandolin, guitar

Running time: One hour, 20 minutes

Remaining performances: 4 p.m. Dec. 28, 29, 30, 31 – all sold out

Info: northernskytheater.com

***

Musical selections

“Mary Did You Know?” – mandolin-guitar instrumental

“Wasn’t That a Pity and a Shame” – Doc Heide, Holly Feldman

“Run, Run Rudolph” – Eric Lewis

Bob Gibson/Joan Baez’ “Virgin Mary Had One Son” – Holly Feldman, Doc Heide

Doc Heide’s “Follow That Star” – Doc Heide, Holly Feldman

Eric Lewis’ “Off to Lambeau”/“Jimmy Ryan’s” – Eric Lewis mandolin instrumental

Songs with “Holly” in lyrics – Holly Feldman

“Home for the Holidays” – Eric Lewis

“Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head” – Doc Heide, Holly Feldman

Doc Heide’s “The Girl with Winter in Her Eye” – Doc Heide

Skip Ewing’s “It Wasn’t His Child” – Eric Lewis voice-guitar solo

“Winter Wonderland” a spark for parody – All

Katie Dahl’s “In the Dark” – Holly Feldman

Eric Lewis’ “I Love the Packers” – Eric Lewis, then audience

Doc Heide’s “Love Our Enemies” from “Packer Fans from Outer Space” – Doc Heide

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as spark for parody – All

Doc Heide’s “Stranger Keep on Walking” – Doc Heide

“Go Tell It on the Mountain” – All

Encore; “This Little Light of Mine” – All

***

The concert comes with doses of reverence and irreverence.

Reverence: Songs from old spirituals (“Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain”) to those of new and/or different perspectives, including Heide’s “Follow That Star” (tale of Wise Men) and “Stranger Keep on Walking” (of stable owner) and Lewis’ offering of “It Wasn’t His Child” (of Joseph).

Irreverence: A tease of clashing family opinions at holiday gatherings set to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and a lampoon of our next U.S. president with “Tweeting in a Donald Trumperland” set to “Winter Wonderland.” Advice in the latter: “When speaking your mind, it’s best to be kind.”

The performers’ personalities come out. Feldman ranges from light-hearted in tunes with her first name somewhere in them to motherly concern in Katie Dahl’s “In the Dark.” Lewis is a musician whiz with a flair for fun, as in the catchy “I Love the Packers,” told from the perspective of a fan from Tennessee, as he. Heide is a font of creativity, as one would expect of a co-founder of Northern Sky Theater who in his real life in teaching/research deals with matters of the mind. Performing is but a playroom in his house.

The show comes with giveaway prizes. Audience members have to answer multiple-choice questions on the same premise: Which one of these was not a Northern Sky Theater show? The answers are so easy that even I could get them.

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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