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A ye bit of fun

The holidays go old school

Joey Jewell (left), host of Ye Olde Merry Holiday (TV) Spectacular, makes merry with Casi Wilkerson and Matthew Vail. Photo courtesy of the Broadway Center

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Back in the days before online shopping and YouTube videos of cats, holiday entertainment meant TV specials and variety shows hosted by the likes of Perry Como.

Like the gelatin salad with fruit and vegetables and a nuts-and-cream-cheese topping, these old-fashioned mixtures of song, dance and comedy - all held together by the spirit of the season - were staples back in the '60s.

Times sure have changed. Maybe you still serve that salad at the holidays, but how much time do you spend huddled around the TV with your family, all watching the same show together?

The lighthearted show stuffed with holiday cheer is back - in a live version on stage at the Broadway Center.

Ye Olde Merry Holiday (TV) Spectacular, opening Dec. 18, is the center's first original stage production, and it aims to take audiences back 50 years or so.

It's an idea that's so old, it's new.

"We wanted to bring something a little bit different," said Brett Carr, the show's co-producer. "The show is trying to hark back to the late fifties and early sixties Andy Williams or Dean Martin kind of variety shows," he said. "They were well written. They always had really good people on them."

"It's just like those shows back then," added director Chris Nardine. "There's comedy; there's music of different types. It's family-oriented."

Local celebrity Joey Jewell, known for his shows paying tribute to Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, will be the host. The band Jewell uses for his shows will be on hand, too, Nardine said.

Also starring are Matthew Vail and Casi Wilkerson.

Carr said he's amazed by the level of talent in the show, even in the smaller roles. Steve Manning, the show's announcer, and Mike Storslee, who plays the TV show's director, are two of the region's best actors, he said.

And the members of the show's small chorus have all played leading roles in other shows, he added.

"We've involved community theater people; we've involved professional actors; we've involved professional musicians," he said, "and they're almost exclusively people from the community. I just think it's wonderful to be able to do that."

The musical numbers will offer wide variety, including classical numbers such as favorites like "Sleigh Ride" and "Winter Wonderland."

A quartet will sing "Christmastime Is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas, the beloved TV special that made its debut 50 years ago.

The audience will also get the experience of being part of another classic Christmas special.

"We'll have two older TV cameras out in the audience facing the stage, and we have an announcer," Nardine said.

There'll even be a commercial break, with commercials that date back to the era, advertising such products as a Westinghouse electric roaster.

Ye Olde Merry Holiday (TV) Spectacular, 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 18 and 19; 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, Theatre on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma, $19-$49, 253.591.5894,

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