Home for the Holidays

The National Stage Company of Canada’s Home for the Holidays: A Nat King Cole Christmas will be at the nearby Port Theatre in downtown Nanaimo for one night only on December 5—and The Navigator will be giving away two tickets!

Touring Vancouver Island December 3–13, Home for the Holidays features New York actor, singer, and playwright James Rich, and Samantha Madill, a thirteen-year-old singer and actress from Vancouver Island, performing some classic, as well as some new Christmas songs. They are accompanied by a six-piece band.

“The concept for this performance is to capture the essence of The Nat King Cole Show as if Mr. Cole was still a headline concert artist of his time … but today,” Rich said via an email interview. “Think of it as Nat King Cole 2.0, holiday style. We will perform some of the musical numbers in Nat King Cole’s style, turn the rest on their heads, and perform them with a fresh twist.”

Evoking a line from Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” Rich said, “There will be something for ‘kids from one to ninety-two.’”

Audiences can expect a wide variety of Christmas songs according to Madill. Her favourite number from the show is “Christmastime is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas. She feels it captures the essence of the Christmas season, conjuring up images of walking into holiday-decorated malls. She is also always impatient during rehearsals to hear Rich’s “very cool, jazzy rendition” of “My Favourite Things” from The Sound of Music.

Madill has been in the performing arts for seven years, with a preference for musical theatre. She started taking vocal lessons three years ago, and has held impressive roles ranging from Jane Banks in Mary Poppins and the titular role in Matilda.

How did she get started? Madill’s answer is simple: “I’ve always really loved singing,” she said. Her mother, Leanna Madill, adds that she was always singing around the house as a child. Her older sisters were involved in theatre, which made Madill’s introduction seamless.

Madill was approached for her guest spot in Home for the Holidays by Tony James, the producer of the show. He has been very supportive throughout her career. Madill gushed over the “very, very talented” six-piece band and had nothing but good things to say about Rich. “James is super nice and welcoming,” she said, stressing the importance of a good co-star.

The feeling is mutual. A self-proclaimed Samantha Madill fan, Rich said it has been “a dream” to perform alongside young talent.

“She is very talented and incredibly poised,” Rich said of his co-star. “When I was [her] age, I could never have done what she’s doing; a show like this with a group of adult artists. She is such a competent performer and a real natural on stage. I find myself learning as much from her as she has said she is learning from me.”

To say Rich is a huge Nat King Cole fan would be an understatement. He created a Google Alert to send him notifications for his music idol, which put him in contact with producer Tony James. Rich ended up writing a two-act musical called There Was a Boy based on Nat King Cole. Rich said he and James jumped at the chance of Home for the Holidays.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to headline a concert show that harkens back to all the boy singers (Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr., Tom Jones, Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett, the Rat Pack, the list goes on) who made it possible for me to be on stage and do something I love doing,” Rich said.

Rich’s first major contract after college was singing backup for Harry Belafonte on his world tour. “What a blessing that show was for me. It was more than 25 years ago, yet I remember it all like yesterday,” he said, describing sharing the stage with Belafonte as a “masterclass.”

Rich said Home for the Holidays is “the first time anyone created a concert show around me … I hope this is just the beginning, but for now: bucket list, check!”

With both local and international talent, Home for the Holidays promises to be a feel-good festive night out guaranteed to put audience members into the Christmas spirit.

Interested in attending? There are a variety of ticket options available on the Port Theatre’s website. But before checking that out, head over to the Navigator Student Press Facebook page, or navigatorviu on Instagram to enter for a chance to win a pair of tickets!

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