As Owen explains; “Nothing seems more appropriate than raising funds and awareness for an illness that effects so many of us, through the most life-affirming things: music, laughter and friendship. It’s the reason we started having this party in the first place, to help people get through those times when they can be at their lowest ebb. This show has come to mean Christmas for me, and it’s now an annual highlight for many, both on and off stage.”
Each evening includes both invited performers and surprise guests who drop into Harry and Judith’s onstage living room. Past revelers have included Weird Al Yankovic, Jane Lynch, Donald Fagen, Richard Thompson, Catherine O’Hara, Henry Butler, Paul Shaffer, Alice Ripley, Alfie Boe, Christopher Guest, Keb’ Mo’ and Steve Lukather, to name but a few.
The show is divided into two acts. The first features Owen, Shearer and their cast of guests, each of whom perform a seasonal “party piece” – either a classic or original song. Selections range from the sentimental (“Winter Wonderland” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) to the irreverent (“F&*k Christmas” and “Jesus Was a Driedel Spinner”). Comics, magicians, female impersonators and even a somber clown have been welcome additions, adding the perfect mix that makes this a true variety show. As guests finish their performances, they remain onstage (which Owen decorates in a cozy, Christmastime setting), steadily building the exuberant, festive mood. Each year Shearer writes a new satirical song (most recently 2013’s “Why No Bail-Out for Santa?”) while he and Owen close the first act with Owen’s own heartfelt ode to Christmases past, “The Dancing Tree.”
The second act is an audience sing-along of classic American Christmas carols, with Owen providing specially designed songbooks. For the crowd favorite “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” Owen and Shearer divide the audience into twelve groups, who then act out their respective “day,” the best of whom are awarded with kitschy and often quite awful holiday gifts!
A throwback to simpler times, this homespun variety show is both festive romp and salve for the soul, serving as a reminder to all that Christmas is a time to be with the ones you love…and sometimes, even family!