This time of year, “what makes the ideal present?” is the question on many of our minds. Of course, there is no one- size-fits-all wonder widget. Although wish lists vary from person to person—cooking classes, concert tickets, the latest video game—gifts that enable us to share experiences with friends or loved ones tend to be a common theme.
Such is the inspiration for Studio Tenn Theatre Company’s new holiday offering A Studio Tenn Christmas, a new musical variety show that harks back to the television specials of yesteryear.
Billed as “a modern take on the vintage holiday special,” the format takes cues from legendary hosts such as Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, and others. A cast of eight singers offers up a warm blend of merriment and nostalgia through music and banter—sans cameras and commercials.
Performing their stylized takes on holiday favorites such as “O Holy Night,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” and “White Christmas,” featured singers of A Studio Tenn Christmas include Jake Speck, Libby Black, and Patrick Thomas, as well as Studio Tenn’s Artistic Director, Matt Logan.
Logan said the concept has been a few years in the making and will have a distinctly different feel from its mainstage plays and musicals. “The vintage TV specials that we most dearly remember brought the music and conversation right into our living rooms,” Logan said. “It was an intimate experience and a social one.”
In the same way, this new program “is more about sharing than strictly presenting,” he said. “We want to set aside that metaphorical fourth wall and just be together—as artists and audience—inhabiting the same moment.”
The company piloted an early version of the program somewhat quietly in 2015 under the no-frills title Holiday Concert. The limited run featured just two weeknight performances on the set of It’s A Wonderful Life (the company’s mainstage offering whose three-week run was also underway).
The song-centric approach was a hit with patrons. This year, A Studio Tenn Christmas debuts as a full two-week run and the company’s sole holiday offering. Logan intends to continue with the same basic format, refreshing the content and performers each year.
“At Studio Tenn, we never want to serve up leftovers,” he said. “Neither do we want to ‘regift’ the same show to our audience year after year.”
Fortunately, “the breadth of the Christmas canon allows us to be original with our own twist on the songs yet still deliver on our audience’s expectations for familiarity and nostalgia,” he said.
Though A Studio Tenn Christmas is just beginning its ascent as a Middle Tennessee tradition, Logan is hopeful that it will become a perennial favorite for patrons—the type of gift that keeps on giving.
The show runs December 8–18 at Jamison Theater in The Factory at Franklin. Performances are held Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at www.studiotenn.com or by calling the box office at 615-541-8200.