ELLSWORTH — Anyone who is still having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year, for one reason or another, should reserve a seat at The Grand Auditorium next weekend for Bob and Anne Bahr’s “Home for the Holidays: A Christmas Wish.” This is a special live benefit concert featuring some of the finest voices — and some fine dancers, too — in the extended Hancock County community.
Instead of simply putting together a holiday concert as the Bar Harbor couple have done in the past, this year they have hung a variety of old and new Christmas tunes, around the framework of a story — like ornaments on a tree.
“When Zoe [Grand Director Zoe Alexis-Scott] asked us to produce a fund-raiser for the theater, we were thrilled to do it,” says Bob Bahr. “And while it was important that we keep it low budget and low risk, Anne and I wanted to do something a little different this time — bring a theatrical element to it with sets and costumes and story line.”
One could describe their tale as a sort of kinder, gentler, musical version of “Home Alone” meets “A Night at the Museum.” It revolves around a boy (Connor Wubbenhorst) who gets separated from his parents (Drew and Jennifer Myers) in New York City, where he runs afoul of a couple of crooks and spends the night in a toy store where the toys come to musical life before Connor is reunited with his folks at Radio City Music Hall.
If one has to work hard at suspending one’s belief to appreciate this premise, the singing and dancing citizens of the Big Apple who Connor meets on his adventure, not to mention Santa himself (Irv Hodgkin), make it all good fun.
At the rehearsal last Sunday afternoon, the cast of some 35 singers and dancers ranging in age from about 6 to 60-something were working with their set for the first time. While some of it was still pretty rough around the edges, it was beginning to take shape with several truly lovely moments.
The first of those moments is Connor Wubbenhorst singing his plaintive “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” when he finds himself separated from his mom. This boy has a fine alto voice that starts the show off on a pitch perfect note.
If audiences find many of the songs in the first act to be unfamiliar and perhaps even a bit melancholic, the second act brings out all the oldies but goodies, plus a high-kicking chorus line of leggy Rockettes.
Some highlights of the show will be the solos sung by Drew and Jennifer Meyers as the boy’s worried parents; a couple of great jazzy numbers from Bar Harbor’s Josh Howie; one embellished by a neat dance turn from David Lamon and Kelly Fitzpatrick; a very pleasant rendition of “Christmas Time in the City” by Frank Bachman and a couple of expected show-stopping numbers from diva Nancy Dymond singing “Grown Up Christmas Wish” and the seasoned baritone Steve Gormley belting out the aria “Nessum Dorma.”
There is also an unexpected showstopper from Mount Desert Island High School freshman Izzy Simbari, who has one of those rare and wonderful voices that can fill a large theater without amplification or, seemingly, effort. Her “Christmas Shopping Blues” just may be the one performance everyone remembers on their way home.
There are also several duets and quartets and rousing chorus numbers that add great musical texture to the show. The duet performed by Bernard Hope and Allen Fitch as the dumb-and-dumber duo of crooks was arguably the most fun of these, although at this rehearsal they were placed at opposite sides of the stage for much of the song which made watching them akin to watching a tennis match.
The simple musical accompaniment from Phil Kell on bass, Lynette Woods on drums and Bob Bahr himself on piano and some nice lighting effects by Mark Smith and Anne Bahr’s terrific Rockette costumes are all that is needed to put a professional sparkle on this production.
“Home for the Holidays: A Christmas Wish”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 14-15
Where: The Grand, 165 Main St., Ellsworth
How much: $18 per adult, $10 per child 12 and under and $15 for seniors and Grand members.
Production & musical directors: Anne and Bob Bahr
Contact: 667-9500, www.grandonline.org