PLATTSBURGH — “Coming Home for the Holidays” restarts a seasonal tradition at the Strand Theatre on Saturday.
The event is a collaboration between the Plattsburgh Renewal Project and the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts.
“We saw an opportunity to have a community holiday show,” said Chris Rosenquest, a Plattsburgh Renewal Project co-founder.
“We knew that the Strand didn’t have one planned. We went to Leigh (Mundy) at the Strand and asked her what her thoughts were, and she was extremely excited and would love to create a partnership and we went for it.”
Hosted by Mayor-Elect Jim Calnon and Counselor-Elect Joshua Kretser, the show will feature performances by the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir, North Country Irish Dance and the Completely Stranded Improv Group.
“We really focused this on fun, family friendly and affordable with local artists, arts groups and performers and a real opportunity to get the community together at the Strand during the holidays,” Rosenquest said.
“The theme was how can we engage the community performers as well as local businesses to help support the show. We went to businesses in the City of Plattsburgh and Town of Plattsburgh. The show is a chance to engage town and city residents and people around the region ... and bring them in the arts district of Plattsburgh.”
Sponsors include Maui North, the Lumber Jills, Oval Development, Steven Bailey Salon, the Ground Round, the North Country Food Co-op and Conroy’s Organics.
“‘Coming Home for the Holidays’ is family-oriented entertainment to get everyone in the spirit for the holidays,” said Kathy Recchia from the arts center.
“There will be a lot of local performers who were invited. The Plattsburgh Renewal Project lined up the entertainment. We were happy to partner with them to put this on.”
Santa Claus will be on hand to greet and bid farewell to show attendees. Other acts include Ashley Kollar, Jay Lesage, Shannon Passo, Julia Devine and the Plattsburgh High School Choir. Organist Dennis Frisbie will play holiday tunes on the Plattsburgh Wurlitzer before the main show.
Frisbie got an early present from the jolly one and jumped at the chance to play the historic pipe organ.
“I have a performance degree in pipe organ,” Frisbie said. “That’s my classical background. When I was younger in my teens, I took private theater-organ lessons and did concerts for the Hammond Organ Company. I demoed instruments for them, so people could hear what they do. That was in Springfield, Mass. My pipe-organ degree is from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.”
In the early 1980s, Frisbie played keyboards in the U.S. Air Force Big Band.
At Saturday’s concert, his pre-show tunes include “My Favorite Things” from the “Sound of Music,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “The Christmas Waltz,” “White Christmas” and “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy” from “The Nutcracker.”
For him, the Plattsburgh Wurlitzer has many toys.
“It has real bells and snare drums,” Frisbie said. “I spent seven hours there practicing today. It’s like having an orchestra at your command. You can play any instrument. Jonathan Ortloff was my inspiration. I used to do that back in the day. I want to rejuvenate my enthusiasm.”
Kretser and Calnon will be keeping spirits light with their emcee duties.
“We are going to be working quite a bit with each other the next three years,” Kretser said. “It has been fun to work with him and collaborate with him creatively. It’s been good. We’ve been working on the list of numbers and try to incorporate ourselves in that and try to make the whole event tie together seamlessly.”
The past two days, Kretser had Wurlitzer-101 training with Frisbie.
“It’s another great opportunity for people who missed the concert (‘Phantom of the Opera’) with Jonathan Ortloff last month, the debut of the Plattsburgh Wurlitzer,” Kretser said. “There are only 20 of them operational in the world, and they have a unique name associated with a place or venue. It was officially named the Plattsburgh Wurlitzer.”
Operatic bass Tom McNichols will perform “The Grinch.” It has been a hit with audiences, and he expects the same at Saturday’s show.
“The first time I did it was in 2008,” said McNichols, who lives in Manhattan. “I was still with Cantus, when they traveled to Plattsburgh with me once. We did the Christmas tour with the Boston Pops. We did a similar 15-minute arrangement. It was with full orchestra, Cantus and with me narrating.”
Saturday’s rendition will have a similar structure with video.
“The audio has been taken out at certain portions and at times,” McNichols said. “Jay Lesage and I have done a musical arrangement beneath other portions of it. The audio, spoken and video will all be coming together on Saturday.”
McNichols loves the “The Grinch,” and the role fits his voice like a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole.
“It’s been a Christmas favorite for people almost 60 years,” he said. “People ate it up at the Boston Pops tour.”
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IF YOU GO WHAT: "Coming Home for the Holidays" presented by the Plattsburgh Renewal Project in partnership with the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts. WHEN: Saturday. Doors open at 2:30 p.m.; Santa Claus in lobby 2:15 p.m.; pre-show Christmas music with Dennis Frisbie performing on the Plattsburgh Wurlitzer 2:30 p.m.; main show 3 to 4:30 p.m. WHERE: Strand Theatre, Brinkerhoff St., Plattsburgh. ADMISSION: Advance tickets $10 adults and $5 for children 17 and under. Free for children 2 and under. Tickets at the door are $12 and $6. PHONE: 563-1604.