Holidate a Light But Soulful Musical at Yellow Tree Theatre

Yellow Tree Theatre presents Holidate a new addition to their holiday season shows this one written by newish Artistic Director Austene Van. A short, around 70 minute production, that has a wafer thin story upon which to hang a series of Christmas songs both familiar, though often with a twist, and some not so familiar. If you enjoy some broad jokes and humor along with dynomite vocal performances you’ll find yourself smiling and maybe even singing along. I found it enjoyable and lightweight, perhaps not as memorable as other holiday shows I’ve taken in so far, but it’s goal is really to give us some smoking hot renditions of songs with a little story thrown in. It sort of has the feel of a lounge act with really good singing, and I think that’s a nice change up. It’s adding a new option for folks in the holiday season.

The story is simple:

Early evening on a beautiful wintery day, Taylor and Michael are in a hairy hurry to buy holiday presents for all of their friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances…& pets. Finally, they stop before they drop their overstuffed shopping bags to take a load off & rest a bit on a bus stop bench on Nicollet Mall. The stress of the season makes them question almost everything about themselves, their families, traditions, their relationship and their future together. Taylor is hoping one little question will be asked and answered to make her season merry & bright. Will she receive her heart’s desire this Christmas? This holiday musical rocks the bells and decks the halls with joy and laughter!

Yellow Tree Theatre Website

Jennifer Grimm plays Taylor and Julius Collins is Michael with Jason Ballweber as a street performer who acts as fake musical accompaniment and comic relief. Grimm and Collins have wonderful voices and add so much soul and style to everyone one of the songs, it would have been just as enjoyable, maybe more so if they were just performing the songs. I wish the program listed the songs used, there were several I was unfamiliar with, but I enjoyed every one. Grimm can belt out the songs or make them sultry as hell, and then in the next breathe knock you out with her breathy rendition Santa Baby. Collins’ thick rich voice is like velvet and his take on James Brown is fantastic and gives the audience a big laugh as well. Their interactions with Ballweber lend a lot of laughs as well; he’s so adroit and the little one liners…but gets as many laughs from his non verbal moments.

You want to come to this for the music and some quick laughs, the plot about traditions, families, and ‘will he’ or ‘won’t he’ propose sounds great, but it really doesn’t work very well. It feels too often like the plot is treading water. Van has the right idea with these themes, but it really doesn’t flow or make much logical sense. For instance, Michael and Taylor have been together for three years, their families live in the same area, but I’m fairly certain there was dialogue that stated Taylor has never met his mother. They are excited but a little nervous that this is the first year they are going to spend time with each others families over Christmas, but it’s midway through the show when they realize that they are supposed to be at each families house at about the same time. That could be an interesting obstacle if it was presented right, but there’s no explanation of someone mishearing something or anything to explain the fact they are double booked. I think from what’s presented, these fully grown adults who have been together for three years simply assumed they could magically spend all day with her family and then… what? Rewind the clock and spend it with his? The explanation for this lack of any planning seems to be that they both thought there were two December 25th’s? The show is directed by Marci Lucht, she does a great job of staging all of the comedic moments particularly with the Street performer. She makes good use of the small space and the set designed by Justin Hooper which gives them multiple layers to play upon. It’s the moments between songs and jokes that seems like the characters are just moving around to distract from the fact that what they have to say isn’t that engaging. I’d love to see this again in coming years with this same cast, they are the right people with the right voices, I think the script could be improved upon by the insertion of some logical reasons for the plot points, maybe what it needs is another 20 minutes to flesh out the ideas it touches on, and I sure wouldn’t mind another song or two by this terrific vocal duo.

Holidate runs through December 30th at Yellow Tree Theatre the songs alone are worth checking it out. For more information and to purchase tickets go to https://yellowtreetheatre.com/holidate

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