Fa la la la la, la la la PSYCHE. Students who are looking to brighten the end-of-semester blues and are tired of the same old carols and stories will have the opportunity for local holiday magic turned on its head during the next few weeks. StageQ company has a show at the Bartell Theatre off of Capitol Square that promises to deliver just that.
“The Holiday Stops,” self-described as an “irreverent” but “sweet” comedy, returns to the theater for its second season. The show tells the story of four actors on a national tour, who are in Madison for one night. The real-life cast, though, will stick around until the last performance on Dec. 15.
“That’s the joke,” director Cindy Severt said.
It has only been performed one other time and features all original music. Classic Christmas tunes are used, but given completely new lyrics to tie in with the show or spoof the classics. Recognize that tune? Famous songs are also reshaped into an unlikely Christmas song.
Evjue stage, the room of the Bartell where “The Holiday Stops” is showing, is a small stage housing less than 100 in the audience. But Severt said, “I find the smaller space works better with the cast of four.”
The smaller arena does not mean audience-members will sit passively and watch. The cast encourages audience involvement, keeping everyone engaged throughout the show. The camaraderie of the cast is apparent, shining through in its performance and contagious to those in attendance.
“It’s an intimate show,” said Jake Aebly, who works on music direction for the show.
And there are some surprises to look for.
“We changed the ending of the show pretty considerably from what the original music was,” Aebly said.
The ending has been reworked to fit StageQ’s theatrical needs. The biggest surprise for those who have seen the original may be a new character introduced halfway through that did not appear in the original “Holiday Stops.”
What is just as surprising is the sheer amount that audience members will recognize from American pop culture. Several allusions to holiday media specials from TV to music are made throughout the performance. Severt said, “We worked in a lot of material that the audience will recognize.”
“Not a sit back and passively enjoy the music type of show,” Aebly agreed.
This is apparent in the bantering of the characters onstage and their interactions with the crowd.
“Mostly the show is about perceptions — how we perceive ourselves in each other and how easily those perceptions are mistaken,” Severt said.
The heartwarming performance will leave audiences wanting more from this witty holiday performance, Aebly said.
“It’s a breath of fresh air; it doesn’t take itself as seriously as some of the others that have been around for 100 years,” he said.
That breath of fresh air, during the end of semester, is much needed indeed. So, for a new spin on the holidays, StageQ has crafted a show that will deliver in its production of “The Holiday Stops.”
“The Holiday Stops” is currently playing at the Bartell Theatre in Madison, through Dec. 15. It plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $10-$15.