By Emily J Weitz
There was a time when the Christmas holiday was inextricably linked to Ed Sullivan, Bing Crosby and other celebrities who have now faded into the fabric of our cultural history. But Joe Lauro, whose business owns the rights to clips featuring many of the biggest and brightest stars of the past, will bring these memories back into the spotlight next Saturday evening at Bay Street.
“Back in the 50s, all the big people would have Christmas shows during the holiday time. I’ve gone through 30 years of these shows and pulled the most fun, classic, and bizarre clips and put them together like a brand new variety show.” The show is so authentic it will even feature a host and commercials in the style of the day. “People can expect to be thoroughly entertained for every second of what’s going to be on the screen.”
The idea to create a variety show with hand-plucked classics isn’t new to Lauro this year.
“The program started off as my company’s Christmas party,” Lauro says.
His company, the Historic Films Archive, owns the rights to an astounding variety of footage, from shots backstage on the set of “The Wizard of Oz” to the entire run of the Ed Sullivan Show. So it makes sense that, for the holiday party, they’d showcase some of their classic footage.
“But [our variety show] turned into a complete production… This year we decided it was too good to waste on 50 or 100 people.”
“We are trying to keep it in the style of the parties we had that were so much fun,” says Lauro. “We start with the movie, which is about 70 minutes, and then the screen will go up. Behind the screen will be the band.” The band, complete with a horn section and two singers, is called the Who Dat Loungers and brings the kind of festive party music for which New Orleans is famous. They’ll be parading through the audience and the audience will be invited up onto the dance floor for a dance party.
The film itself will bring the audience for a walk down memory lane with familiar faces like the Beatles, Ed Sullivan, and Bob Hope. “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…) which has been performed by countless legends over the decades, will be turned into a montage.
“In that two minutes,” says Lauro, “you’ll have seven different very famous people singing, like Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and others.” Along with moments that tug at the heart strings, you’ll find yourself laughing. In some instances, the editors took the strange and made them even stranger. “There’s a duet between Frank Sinatra and William Shatner that we created,” says Lauro. “It’s gonna bring down the house.”
Lauro and his team also used technological innovations to take these universal classics and give them a personal twist. “We took a scene from the classic ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and twisted it with a Sag Harbor theme.”
The details are a surprise, for attendees only, but it’s not hard to imagine Sag Harbor as Bedford Falls, the Smalltown, USA memorialized in the film. There’s always an element of tradition and nostalgia to the holiday season. It may be the communal cooking of latkes on the first night of Hannukah. It may be the reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” every Christmas Eve, even after the kids are all grown and have kids of their own. Whatever it is, we crave this connection to our past.
“When I think of what Christmas is about, part of it is about remembering and being sentimental to some degree,” says Lauro. “Nothing can bring that on better than the memories of some of these things. I find it very effective to see the Beatles talking and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby laughing and singing again.”
The 2010 Christmas Spectacular will take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 11 at Bay Street Theater. Tickets are $20. Contact Bay Street for more information at www.baystreet.org or call 631-725-0818.