[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts interview with Victoria Lavan, director of Winter Wishes: A Holiday Cabaret Theatre at Theatre West December 2-11.
The fabulous people over the wonderful and historic Theatre West have a full program of holiday shows for our entertainment this year! Perfect timing for those of us tired of being at home and longing for the theatre and the company of our fellow Angelenos.
Winter Wishes: A Holiday Cabaret Theatre
December 2 – 11, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm
With a cast of 15 singers and actors, this celebration of classic holiday music is all about nostalgia, memories and inspirational and funny uplifting moments to warm the cockles of your heart.
Putting together a show as big and beautiful as this one took something very special indeed. We wondered how it all came to be, so we asked the show’s splendid director, Victoria Lavan, to let us in on all the secrets behind this wonderful show.
Hi Victoria, congratulations on the show! What inspired you to create Winter Wishes: A Holiday Cabaret Theatre?
In March of this year Theatre West produced a cabaret called “Love, Actually” that included songs and performances developed in the weekly Betty Garrett Musical Comedy Workshop. After over a year of being dark due to covid concerns and restrictions to have live, in-person musical performance back at the Theatre was so exciting and very healing. Audiences loved this show! We did two performances to nearly full houses! Music and song are universally inspiring. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from audiences led Theatre West’s Artistic Board to suggest a Holiday themed show to complete our first year back on stage and in person. A celebration of the Season and being back in the Theatre together making live uplifting music through song! No one needed to ask me twice.
How did you select the songs and sketches?
This was perhaps one of the most difficult tasks! There is so much material to choose from and most all of it is wonderful! In the end the songs selected reflect an overall story arc within the show that evoke thoughts of what it is to wish, hope and believe. To believe as a child, wish as an adult and ultimately believe as a human being. We chose songs that highlight iconic symbols of the Holiday Season including light, mistletoe, stars, Santa, fun, joy, silliness, loss and ultimately love.
Many artists have found the shutdown has changed how they work and what they focus on, did the Covid shutdown affect this show?
I think the covid shutdown will affect live artistic performance for a long time to come. Our rehearsal process has been more conscientious in terms of gathering. Theatre West follows all CDC guidelines for our activities. Everyone tests twice weekly. This higher level of caution has made the process more complex in terms of how many rehearsals and who rehearses when and where. We have scheduled more rehearsals with fewer people up until we all need to be on stage. There is also a much higher sense of personal discipline in terms of health and wellbeing among cast members. Everyone is living their healthiest lives at the moment! There is more consideration for the wellbeing of cast mates too. And, these new considerations have inspired cast members to support each other at a much deeper level. Everyone knows everyone else’s material in case they might need to step in due to a cast member falling ill.
What do you hope the audiences will take from the show?
My wish is this show will inspire audiences to reclaim their own joy and share it with their family friends and everyone they know. There is so much inherent joy in music and singing. I also wish that audiences will hear the personal stories being told by a handful of cast members and think about the magic in their own lives. We all have magic in our lives. Even if for a fleeting moment. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember it, recognize it, claim it but it is there! We want our audiences to leave our theatre humming, smiling, hugging their loved ones, and looking forward to sharing these feelings with others. AND to returning to see more shows at Theatre West!!
This is a big cast, how did you form the company?
It IS a big cast!! All are members of Theatre West! We are really lucky to have a wealth of talent to draw from. We are so proud to have several new members making their Theatre West debuts in “Winter Wishes” as well as many long-time members in our cast! The goal in casting this show was to create a company of singer/actors who would be willing to dig deep, be vulnerable in their storytelling, have a variety of experiences to draw from, different voices coming together to tell individual stories in song and spoken word inside the larger arc created.
It’s wonderful that you have a live band. Was that the plan all along?
Again, we are so lucky to have these five incredible musicians come together as our Jingle Bell Band for this show! Four band members joined us previously for Love, Actually. Our Musical Director, Paul Cady, is a long-time TW member and plays regularly for our Musical Comedy Workshop. We have been able to add a guitar player for this show. These musicians are all friends and have played together for many years in various venues. They come to us with resumes that include playing and touring with Tom Jones, Annie Lennox (Eurythmics), Neil Sedaka, Andy Williams, Ricky Lee Jones, Seals & Croft, Jose Feliciano, Macy Gray and Kim Carnes to name a few. It’s a great band!!
And finally, please tell us what you value most about being able to perform again and at Theatre West.
I not only perform and direct for a living I also train performers as well. Performers in any discipline are constantly working through the process of practicing craft, exploring artistry, and delivering the experience of performance transcendence. We often practice craft on our own. We also often explore various forms of artistry on our own. But to find and deliver performance transcendence requires others – the audience. The exchange of energy that occurs between performing artists and audiences is as elusive as it is unmistakable. But being able to offer and experience that exchange is indispensable. It can literally change lives on both sides of a stage. Neither artists nor audiences can do without it. The artists at Theatre West know this and provide a space for artists to grow and even flourish for the benefit of our audience. Without question to be able to reconnect with our audience is the most valuable gift about being able to perform again at Theatre West.
Theatre West is celebrating 60 years as a continuously operating professional theatre in Los Angeles.
Thank you Victoria and thank you Theatre West for being the oldest continuously running theatre in Los Angeles and for bringing us incredible new work as well as classic audience favourites. Bravo!
For more information on Theatre West, Winter Wishes: A Holiday Cabaret Theatre, and the rest of the season please visit their website: https://theatrewest.org/. The next show, 18 Minutes of Fame, will be opening soon on December 16.