There was a time when holiday specials were an event for the whole family. When everyone would gather in front of the television to watch personalities like Dean Martin, Carol Burnett or Sonny and Cher host variety shows featuring music, skits and laughter.
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Nostalgia for those days is what drove Arvada Center musical director David Nehls and writer Kenn McLaughlin to create “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” a musical developed for the center.
“We both grew up on variety shows,” explained McLaughlin. “We thought we’d take our love of variety shows and what was going on in 1969, which was a watershed moment in the changing dynamic in America, and create this show.”
The world premiere of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” runs at the center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., from Nov. 18 through Dec. 23. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 1 p.m. Wednesday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
“The feeling of everyone coming together is missing from a lot of Christmas shows,” said Rod Lansberry, the Arvada Center’s artistic producer. “The show is a new approach to our holiday show, and I believe we’re creating not only a new piece, but a new tradition.”
As the 1960s end, the Bright family prepares for their annual Christmas variety show, one of the most-watched and anticipated television events of the year. The family gets a surprise when their son, and former teen idol, Simon (Jake Mendes) returns from the Vietnam War, uneasy about returning to the stage and civilian life.
The show features new takes on classic Christmas numbers, as well as new songs written by Nehls.
“I’ve been the musical director for my own work before, but never at the Arvada Center,” he said. “The Arvada Center is the perfect place for new work, because it’s such an inviting and warm environment.”
McLaughlin and Nehls, as well as director Gavin Mayer, described the process of putting together “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” as collaborative and exciting.
“Christmas is my favorite time of year, so I take the opportunity to be part of people’s holiday season very seriously,” Mayer said. “This show is all about taking time out of life to breathe and about family being together.”
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