Several years ago when I was the entertainment/pop culture reporter for the local daily paper I concocted what I thought was a brilliant idea.
Every year as the winter holidays approached, we struggled with ways to cover the various local professional theater Christmas shows. If you featured one on the cover of the entertainment tab, the others bitched about it relentlessly – regardless of who/what was actually featured in the story.
So, I had a plan…
Each week starting in early November and leading up to Christmas, the plan was to review each one of the shows individually, and that way, everyone would get a fair shake.
My boss loved the idea, so off I went.
The eager beaver, I headed out to conquer with my notepad and flashlight pen.
In those days, there were at least seven of these Yule-tide productions spread across the Grand Strand, from the “One” show at The Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach to Legends in Concert in Surfside Beach.
About halfway through this marathon endeavor I realized the error of my ways. These shows were all well-produced and choreographed, but a certain sameness and forced cheer began to permeate my jaded brain. If I heard one more rendition of “We Need a Little Christmas” originally from the musical “Mame,” I was going to plug my ears up with rubber cement and go off on a Scrooge-style rampage.
I went from needing a little Christmas to having way too much Christmas and needing a stiff drink.
But I do remember the Yuletide vibes not being rammed down your throat so much at Legends in Concert, when the tribute artist show was housed in its namesake theater in Surfside Beach. It was like the regular Legends show – paying tribute to Elvis, The Blues Brothers, Michael Jackson, etc. – with some Christmas material and staging sprinkled in throughout – and I liked that.
Save for The Alabama Theater’s Christmas show which I attended a couple of years ago on a freelance assignment, I hadn’t been able to stomach a local yuletide production since my fateful experiment.
Since Legends in Concert relocated to the former All-Star Café/former Club Kryptonite in 2011, I had not checked out the new digs, new production, and new backing band – I don’t get out and about as much as a used to, as I’ve got two little ones at home.
But Legends band drummer Tommy Tipton kept inviting me to check out the show.
So last week, as my wife professed wanting to take our 5-year-old daughter, who seems to be interested in the performing arts, to a Christmas show, I asked Tipton if his offer still stood.
Full disclosure: We attended Friday’s Legends In Concert Christmas show on Friday via complimentary tickets provided by Tipton. I do not indulge in a regular habit of taking freebies although many are offered, with the exception of gaining access to an event that I’m going to write/report on; and review copies of DVDs, CDs and books which we intend to feature in Weekly Surge – hence this blog entry. I got free tickets, I’m writing about the show.
We were seated front and center on the third row, and the spitting image of Alan Jackson (in the form of Doug Brewin) sauntered on stage in tattered jeans and cowboy hat - and whereas contemporary country is not necessarily my cup of tea, Brewin’s performance won me over, especially since he did some tasty guitar picking on several acoustic axes, deftly switched out by the show’s technicians. And yes, he did play the megahit “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere” - as I enjoyed sipping on my $5 24-ounce Shocktop Belgian White. (I have to admit, besides the Las Vegas kitsch factor, I’ve always enjoyed Legends because it has always had a bar/alcohol sales, something that can’t be said for some of the area’s other shows and productions.)
Brewin’s performance made me rethink my virtual ignorance of Jackson’s catalog outside of the previous Jimmy Buffett-inspired ditty and “Chattahoochee” – despite the fact that he hails not far from my hometown in Georgia, and perhaps I should give him another listen.
I was most interested in the four-piece band, as it’s made up of players who have been on the local music scene for several years, including the aforementioned skins-pounder extraordinaire Tipton, bassist/music director Marc Chesanow, guitar wunderkind “Kid” Drew Voivedich and keyboardist Richard Wojeck, who used to plunk the ivories at Crocodile Rocks.
Indeed, they performed with aplomb, tackling various genres and styles while recreating the sounds associated with wildly diverse performers, from the aforementioned Jackson, to The Blues Brothers, to Johnny Mathis and Celine Dion.
I would like for the band to be cranked up a little more – but I know the focus of this show is on the vocalists, so it is what it is, vocals in the forefront, the music somewhat muted.
Still, I have to think the band really digs getting to rock out a bit with a spot on rendition of Trans Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells,” which I regard as the highlight of the show.
Unfortunately, we had to leave before seeing The King and the finale, because my 19-month-old son needed to be picked up before 10 p.m.
The Legends in Concert holiday show is definitely worth checking out, especially if you haven’t been to the new, 600-seat state-of-the art theater across from Broadway at the Beach (2925 Hollywood Drive). It continues this week at 8 p.m. through Thursday.
And, to beat those shopping blues and/or get those relatives visiting for the holidays out of the house for awhile, here’s the lowdown on some other professional holiday shows running in the Myrtle Beach area.
(Note, if you’re looking for something else to do, check out my most recent On the Fly report which has details on a local songwriters showcase tonight at The Sound Hole, and info on the big college hoops clash as Coastal Carolina University takes on Clemson at The HTC Center on Wednesday. Follow this link: www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2012/12/12/3218764/on-the-fly-for-dec-13-2012.html)
The one that started it all, this week The Carolina Opry Christmas Special is at 7 p.m. daily, with 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. shows on Saturday before going on a short Christmas break.
Tickets range from $24.19 to $51.12.
For more information, go to www.thecarolinaopry.com or call 913-400.
THE ALABAMA THEATRE
“The South’s Grandest Christmas Show,” featuring The Alabama Theater’s in-house talent (including my pal, fiddler nonpareil Robert Napier) is running at 7:30 p.m. this week through Saturday.
Tickets are $39.45 to $49.45.
Call 272-1111 or visit www.alabama-theatre.com
THE PALACE THEATRE
In a kind of cross between The Rockettes and Ice Capades, “Christmas on Ice” is the featured Yuletide production at The Palace Theatre, and it runs this week at 7:30 p.m. through Saturday, with additional shows at 10 a.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. Thursday.
Tickets are $34.95 to $44.95.
The Palace Theatre is at 1420 Celebrity Circle, Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach.
Call 800-905-4228 or visit www.palacetheatremyrtlebeach.com.