Neil Berg stages Christmas Day ‘Broadway Holiday’ production at Wheeler Opera House
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘Neil Berg’s Broadway Holiday’
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Monday, Dec. 25, 6:30 p.m.
How much: $60
Tickets: Wheeler box office; http://www.aspenshowtix.com
Composer and Broadway veteran Neil Berg will be behind the piano with a cast of vocalists for a Christmas Day presentation of “Neil Berg’s Broadway Holiday” at the Wheeler Opera House.
The show is a seasonal spin-off from Berg’s popular touring revue “100 Years of Broadway,” which takes Broadway stars on the road to perform the greatest hits from the Great White Way. The first act of “Broadway Holiday” focuses on Broadway hits and history, while the second serves up Christmas tunes and holiday cheer.
“It’s a great mix, sung by some of the great Broadway performers working today,” Berg said in a recent phone interview.
Berg, who plays piano onstage as part of a three-piece band, peppers the show with bits of Broadway history.
“For example, people don’t know that ‘We Need a Little Christmas’ is actually from the musical ‘Mame,’” he said. “So I’m able to tell a little history about things like that.”
The Broadway tunes are mixed in with seasonal classics such as “White Christmas” and some less played-out compositions. In what Berg describes as a mash-up, he combines Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings” with Joni Mitchell’s “River.” Berg’s personal favorites in the show include like “Same Old Lang Syne,” by the late Dan Fogelberg, and Harry Chapin’s “Mr. Tanner.”
“I’m excited because we’ll do the most famous holiday songs,” Berg said, “but then we also get the chance to do some of the great story songs that I don’t know if everyone knows them, but they’re some of the greatest songs ever written.”
The five singers he is bringing to Aspen may not be household names, but they’re all at the top of the game in musical theater.
“People don’t know, but these are the authentic Broadway stars,” Berg said.
The vocalists in the show include Chuck Wagner, who played the Beast in Broadway’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Javert in “Les Miserables” and Rapunzel’s Prince in “Into the Woods;” and Danny Zolli, from “Jesus Christ Superstar” and from the all-star band the British Rock Symphony with Roger Daltrey.
The cast also includes Rita Harvey, who played the lead role of Christine Daee in “The Phantom of the Opera” both in a touring production and on Broadway, along with Carter Calvert, star of “Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues.”
“The thing we always hear when we do this show is, ‘I had no idea that the talent was going to be this good!’” Berg said.
Along with his revue tours, Berg is currently working on the musical adaptation of “Grumpy Old Men” and a Grimm’s fairy tales adaptation titled “Never Grimm,” among other projects.
He made a splash here in Colorado when he and writer Robert Schenkkan staged the world premiere of their musical “The Twelve” at the Denver Center. The well-received Colorado production about Christ’s apostles is Broadway bound, Berg said, with some major announcements coming soon.
“One of the reasons I love Colorado is that we had the most wonderful theatrical experience with our show,” he said of the Henry Award-winning run of “The Twelve.” “Everyone from the staff, the audience, the critics — it’s unusual to have that kind of lovefest.”
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The late Norm Macdonald did stand-up in Aspen from the old days of the HBO Comedy Fest to the 2020 Aspen Laugh Festival.