SBSO: “A Broadway Holiday on Washington Ave.” Christmas Magic & Cocoa

Reviewer: Jen O'Deay

Venue: The Temple Theatre

Eyes wide, his smile as big and beaming as the crystal chandeliers hanging above, he breathed but one word when we entered the room: “Wow.”


Now cookies and hot cocoa, my 10-year-old son has surely sampled. But this wasn’t any ole cuppa, okay? This was a Hot Cocoa Bar, complete with oversized martini-glasses filled with decadent cream, shaved chocolate, marshmallows and beyond to select from. This was cookies that were nearly too pretty to eat (nearly). 


This was the glorious gathering in the Grand Ballroom of The Temple Theatre that took place after we’d just experienced all the merriment and Christmas magic of the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra: “A Broadway Holiday on Washington Ave.” featuring Katie Travis.


But, perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself here (that cocoa bar was something else, though, as was the smile on my boy’s face). Let’s back up just a touch.


Questions my son, Seamus (rhymes with famous), 10, asked before attending his first ever SBSO event: Will this be boring, Mom? No. Is this a Mom-Son date? Yes. Do I have to dress up? Hmmm.


Questions I had beforehand: What do people wear to the SBSO, black-tie & gowns or sweaters & slacks? Do people bring children to the symphony? And, really, what should we wear?


Turns out, the SBSO: “A Broadway Holiday on Washington Ave.” was filled with people dressed in both, and Seamus was certainly not the only kid there (unlike the evening I brought Seamus’ twin sister, Hope, to see Cool 2 Duel Dueling Pianos)! The Temple Theatre contained a glorious mix of men in tuxedos and others in khakis, women in sequined gowns and fur coats to women in holiday sweaters. 


It was an ambiance of, “Come as you are, you’re welcomed to the show”, and what a show it was! Here are unforgettable highlights of the SBSO “A Broadway Holiday on Washington Ave.”:  


  • Every single time special guest Katie Travis opened her mouth, period. This Bay City native is “a versatile soprano who recently finished her run of over 700 shows playing Christine Daae in the North American tour of Phantom of the Opera”, as described in the program. The power in her voice brought tears to audience members around me; Katie Travis’ singing made Seamus say “Wow” multiple times.


  • “The Twelve Gifts of Christmas”, by Jeff Tyzik. Much like “The Twelve Days of Christmas” we’re all familiar with, each of the gifts was a section of the orchestra: “a glockenspiel and a bell tree,” “two clarinets,” “three French Horns,” “four double reeds,” “five golden strings,” “six mellow cellos,” and so on. This piece memorably showcased the various instruments throughout the orchestra, individually and collectively (and I found it an amazing way for my son to be introduced to the orchestra).


  • The Camerata Singers, one of five ensemble groups that make up Center Stage Choirs of Midland Center for the Arts, graced the Temple Theatre stage, too. Try to imagine the sound of Katie Travis, the Camerata Singers, and the SBSO all together in perfect collaboration, and you get a hint of the Christmas musical magic that took place! 


  • “Christmas Sing-a-long”, by John Finnegan. With everyone in the audience singing together to “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Hall” (fa la la la la la la la la) and “Away in a Manger”, this sing-along was cozy, sentimental, and one of my son’s two favorite parts of the evening.


Personally, enjoying special moments with Seamus as he experienced his first ever symphony is my chosen highlight of SBSO: “A Broadway Holiday on Washington Ave.”, although every element and detail was deliciously enjoyable—much like my son’s other favorite part of the evening. 


He’ll be talking about that Hot Cocoa Bar for years to come!


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