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Strauss Theater offers holiday show

By Staff | Dec 23, 2015

The Happy Holidays! A Musical Celebration cast rehearses for the last time before opening night. MEGHAN MCCOY

A high energy, joyful Christmas celebration kicked off last weekend at the Herb Strauss Theater full of Christmas songs and snow guaranteed to get everyone into the spirit of the holiday season.

“It’s basically a feel good tribute to fantastic holiday music with lots of fantastic costumes and high energy dance numbers,” Herb Strauss Theater Artistic Director Bobby Logue said. “We kind of go through the entire lexicon of different genres of Christmas songs.”

Happy Holidays! A Musical Celebration opened Friday, Dec. 18 and runs until New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. with the exception of Sundays with 4 p.m. shows. Tickets are $35 for adults and students and children are $5.

Congress Jewelers is donating three gift certificates, valued at $250 each, which will be given as a surprise during three random shows.

“We love the idea of a musical geared to everyone in the family and wanted to add a little extra joy to a patron who supports this production,” said Melissa Congress in a prepared statement.

Some of the songs include “Man With the Bag,” Happy Holidays,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and such contemporary songs as Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means to Me” and “Do They Know it’s Christmas,” which was the original “We Are the World.”

“It’s a Christmas song to raise awareness about how lucky we all are and what the holidays should really mean – sharing and supporting and enjoying,” Logue said about the song “Do They Know it’s Christmas.”

When Logue sits down with staff and starts designing the Christmas show they always make sure the show appeals to everybody.

“This is the time of the year when there are a lot of families on the island and we don’t want to have two parents that have to sit with their kid in the lobby because they couldn’t be quite for the long quite song,” he said. “So, it’s purposely high energy, high impact. The audience doesn’t get a chance to breath and actually neither do we.”

In addition to the many beautiful songs that fill the 90-minute performance, the show will also include a great deal of tap dancing.

The cast includes Victor Legarreta, Samantha Rotella, Juan Luis Espinal and Tempestt Perrin.

“The rehearsal period has been perfect,” Logue said. “Our camaraderie and our friendship . . . there are days I leave here completely hoarse and it’s not because of singing it’s because I’m literally laughing that much all day long.”

Legarreta first dove into musical theater during high school at the age of 14 with his first performance in “West Side Story.”

“From there I just got the bug and never stopped,” Legarreta said. “It’s the best job in the world. We get to make people happy for two hours while we enjoy what we are doing.”

Out of all the numbers of the show, he said his favorite is the kids section, which highlights such songs as “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

The camaraderie is an aspect of Happy Holidays that he has really enjoyed.

“I’m rehearsing and I have some new friends here and some way back friends. It’s been a nice mixture in a very low pressure, fun,” atmosphere, Legarreta said.

Rotella became involved in musical theater at the age of 13 when she attended a camp in upstate New York. She began performing on the island in 2003, but after having children she stopped for four years.

“This is my first performance in four years,” Rotella said. “It’s been hard being away from it for all those years. There’s nothing that brings me more joy besides my children.”

Her favorite numbers include songs sung by Logue and Legarreta.

Perrin said although she has been dancing all of her life, musical theater attracted her during her senior year of high school. She said since moving to New York she has received a lot more training.

“I was able to do ‘Dream Girls’ my first show, which was amazing,” Perrin said.

This past summer she traveled to Sanibel as a cast member for ‘Rhythm of the Nights.”

“I”m glad to be back again doing a Christmas show. It’s so cool because I always wanted to do a Christmas show,” Perrin said. “I’m glad to be back sharing the stage with all of these lovely people.”

Perrin’s favorite number in the show is when the entire cast is doing harmonies with “Man With a Bag.”

Espinal started doing musical theater in the Dominican Republic his senior year of high school before doing it professionally. He then moved to New York to pursue his acting career in 2013.

“I get to sing and dance and act at the same time,” Espinal said of what he enjoys the most. “It’s the most amazing sensation that I have ever felt in my life.”

He said he enjoys tapping for the first time on stage during his performance in Happy Holidays.

“I feel so proud of myself because I am not a tapper and I’m super basic. This has been a challenge for me to get the rhythm and be able to make the sound and match everybody and don’t mess up,” Espinal said.

His favorite number is also “Blue Skies” and “Christmas Song.”

The musical director of the show is Joseph Angelo, the technical director and production designer is Adam Trummel, sound engineer is Jorge Corral, costume designs by Sandy and Nancy Dougherty and stage manager is Debi Neri.

“In theater it takes an army of people for what we have here on stage,” Logue said. “It isn’t just the people on the stage that is making that experience for them. Our technicians put even more heart into the show in addition to the heart that is already on the stage performing.”

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.