J.R. Sullivan’s Hometown Holiday, the popular holiday variety show produced and presented by J.R. Sullivan and featuring music, stories for the season, comedy and popular songs, returns to the Sullivan Center in downtown Rockford Friday-Sunday, Dec. 9-11. It will mark the 17th holiday season since 1994 that Sullivan has presented his show featuring a cast of actors and musicians performing new as well as classic material.
“It is an annual thrill for me,” said Sullivan, who now makes his home in New York and is the artistic director of New York City’s Pearl Theatre Company. “And I am deeply gratified to know that it has become an annual tradition for so many in Rockford. Our show is a happy celebration of community, two hours of music and comedy meant to cheer the house and mark the coming holiday season with spirit and fun.”
Performances again take place at the Sullivan Center, once the home of Rockford’s New American Theater (NAT), and now named in honor of J.R. Sullivan’s many years as the head of that company.
Popularly known as NAT, the theater began production in 1972 when Sullivan founded the company in conjunction with the fledgling Charlotte’s Web. He then continued to lead NAT to success and national recognition for 22 seasons.
In 1994, Sullivan stepped down from the company and went on to realize new opportunities in national regional theaters and eventually in New York. Since his appointment as artistic director of the Pearl, the company has received a Lortel Award nomination for Best Revival (The Misanthrope) and last spring was honored with the prestigious Drama Desk Award for excellence.
Hometown Holiday began in 1994 because Sullivan chose to continue a December New American Theater tradition of shows for the holiday season, an attraction he had established for the Rockford area’s NAT audiences. Working again in collaboration with Charlotte’s Web, the new producing venture began with the first Hometown Holiday in 1994. Since 2008, the show has been performed in the theater that now bears his name.
Hometown Holiday 2011 features new talent as well as a returning company of musicians, vocalists and well-known actors. Singer and songwriter Megon McDonough is again featured, joined by jazz violinist Randy Sabien and keyboard artist Shawn Wallace. The singer and actress Marcella Rose Sciotto returns after her successful debut in the 2010 show, joined this year by local favorite Holland Zander.
Featured in Hometown Holiday’s new comedy sketches are Linda Abronski, Daniel Patrick Sullivan and Chicago-based actor Jeff Christian.
Another new Rockford story by J.R. Sullivan will also be performed, continuing one of the show’s most popular features since Sullivan began writing and presenting the production.
The show is again presented in association with Charlotte’s Web for the Performing Arts, with all ticketing being handled by the Coronado Performing Arts Center.
“Our show has a winning formula,” Sullivan said. “Music from jazz, folk and popular song traditions, blended with holiday favorites and show tunes. Add in a little comedy from our great troupe of actors and a holiday tale to round it off. It’s a talented and diverse cast of folks who absolutely love working together and doing this show — and for me, a cherished opportunity for coming back to northern Illinois for a hometown holiday.”
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9 and 10, and 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 11. Tickets are $25 and available at the Coronado Performing Arts Center Box Office, 314 N. Main St. Tickets may be purchased in person, by phone at (815) 968-0595, or online at www.coronadopac.org. All seats are reserved. Ticket sales are final, no refunds or exchanges.
From the Nov. 16-22, 2011, issue