Hometown Holiday Dec. 8-10

It’s that time again! Ring in the season with J.R. Sullivan’s 13th Annual Hometown Holiday, presented by Charlotte’s Web. Performances will be 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 8 and Saturday, Dec. 9, with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m., Dec. 10. Location will be Memorial Hall, 211 N. Main St.

This perennial favorite production of holiday stories, music and comedy sketches features the well-known company of Sullivan, Randy Sabien, Megon McDonough, Linda Abronski, Shawn Wallace and Stephen F. Vrtol.

Sullivan, the founder of Rockford’s New American Theater, has presented this unique holiday special under the sponsorship of Charlotte’s Web every December beginning in 1994. The production has evolved and changed each year, with original material featured in every new production. “We have a familiar company,” said Sullivan, “a returning family to the ‘Hometown Holiday’ hearth each December. But we work hard and happily to present new material each season, and the 2006 edition will be no exception.”

Sullivan has closed each season’s show with an original story that he writes for the purpose. Two years ago, it was a tale about his moving from the frozen foods department of a local grocery store to the senior prom with the girl of his dreams. Last December featured another tale from his hometown high school adventures, “Zhivago, the Big Snow, and My Date with Joanne Dietrich.”

Now based in New York City, Sullivan has continued his theater career directing for companies in New York, Washington, D.C., the Midwest and the Southwest, where he spends each summer and early fall with the Utah Shakespearean Festival as associate artistic director. In 2006, his productions have included Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice in Utah, as well as Born Yesterday, which plays through December at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. In February this year, he was honored by his hometown theater, New American Theater, with an award recognizing his accomplishments here and nationwide. This was followed with his production of the Irish comedy, Stones in His Pockets, featuring Stephen F. Vrtol and Ted Deasy. In January, Jim returns to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to direct As You Like It, and in the spring, his production of the American comedy classic Biography will open off-Broadway in New York.

Randy Sabien has been a steady contributor to the “Hometown Holiday” shows, writing and performing original pieces as well as holiday standards. This Rockford native, a long-time favorite of music lovers across the Midwest, will be featured again with fiddle, with guitar, and on the piano, performing from his extensive range of folk, jazz and classical pieces.

Megon McDonough appears in her fourth “Hometown Holiday” show, presenting her own songs as well as the great standards of the holiday season and American songbook. Shawn Wallace, a Chicago-based writer, performer and producer, will be featured on the piano.

Actors Linda Abronski and Stephen F. Vrtol, long featured members of the J.R. Sullivan ensembles at New American Theater, will perform new comedy material, and Sullivan, hosting the show, will close the production with a new story.

This year’s “Hometown Holiday” is sponsored by major contributions from John and Sue Brubaker, the Gordy and Mary Ann Smith Charitable Foundation, David and Christine McCarty, Joyce Ramer; Rolf and Maggie Thienemann; and Janet A. Kjellstrom Fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. Additional support is provided by Northern Public Radio, which will broadcast a performance of the show later in December.

All shows are $20. For more information, call Charlotte’s Web at 964-2238. Ticket outlets are: Rockford Area Arts Council, 713 E. State St., 963-6765; The Postal Shoppe, Edgebrook Center, 397-7301 and 2205 S. Perryville, 484-0940; The Kilt & Clover, 1314 N. Main St., 962-5458; JustGoods, 201 7th St., 965-8903; or by mail with check and SASE, 10928 N. Main, Rockton, IL 61072.

From the Dec. 6 – Dec. 12, 2006, issue

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