Do you remember those holiday programs from decades past? The ones Perry Como, Bing Crosby and, of course, Andy Williams hosted? Then there were the variety shows Sonny & Cher, Sid Caesar, and Red Skelton brought into your living room.
If you recall them fondly, no doubt you’ll appreciate a dose of holiday nostalgia from the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble.
“We tried to learn all we could about the (variety) form so we could do the best homage,” said Cassandra Pisieczko, who is directing “A Very Special Christmas Special” at the Alvina Krause Theatre in Bloomsburg through Dec. 28.
“We kind of focused on Andy Williams.”
What are the necessary ingredients?
“You need a group of brothers who used to perform together on radio who get together once a year to sing together,” Pisieczko said. “And you need an up-and-coming group of brothers.”
In keeping with Lawrence Welk’s frequent guests the Lennon Sisters, BTE has included the Lemon Sisters. There are dancers and a singing, guitar-playing nun. And you may recognize similarities between the BTE performers and the Williams Brothers and Osmond Brothers of yesteryear.
“It’s a really feel-good performance of music and dance and comedy sketches,” Pisieczko said.
“The entire piece takes place in a studio, with the premise (that) the entire Andy Billiams Show has come to Central Pennsylvania.”
During the performance, the audience can see television monitors that show what a viewing audience at home might have seen, even as they watch the action on stage in the moment.
The commercials highlight BTE sponsors such as local utilities and banks, the cast includes 26 local children, and the script incorporates holiday memories sent to BTE by community residents.
“We asked people for their holiday traditions, and they wrote about what it was like to go shopping in downtown Bloomsburg in the ’60s, what it was like to go to Berwick to see Santa Claus, what Hanukkah was like. Those stories are read from cards,” Pisieczko said.
Thanks to music producer Richie Cannaday and musicians Aaron White, Nick McGaw, Michael Fritz, and Steve Gililland, the show is filled with original songs, Pisieczko said.
And there are some hilarious moments, such as when the Billiams Brothers “have fun destroying a Christmas tree” and when the cast presents “A Christmas Carol” in 60 seconds.
“We bring out all our props,” Pisieczko said.
Adding to the fun, at every performance a different local talent shows what it can do.
“We’ve had bluegrass bands. We’ve had ballet, a chorus, a duet, excerpts from ‘The Nutcracker,’ ” the director listed.
“This piece is really accomplishing something I hoped it would accomplish,” she added. “It’s giving back something joyful to the community.