Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS at Arvada Center

Review: I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS at Arvada Center There's no place like home for the holidays, and the Arvada Center is making sure of that this holiday season. I'll Be Home for Christmas is making its debut at the Center, featuring a broad selection of local talent.

Directed by Gavin Mayer, this is a premiere for the Arvada Center featuring music and lyrics by resident music director David Nehls, who formerly penned the same for The Great American Trailer Park Musical. The book is by Kenn McLaughlin.

Set in 1969, the musical follows the behind-the-scenes action of the Bright family's yearly Christmas show, aired live on television, which they've been doing for years. Think of the kind of specials families used to huddle around for the holidays. It's a little warmer this year because Dana and Louise Bright (Noah Racey and Megan Van de Hey) are welcoming home their son, Simon (Jake Mendes), from war, where he was a decorated hero. Meanwhile, their activist daughter, Maggie (Kim McClay) is trying to modernize their special a bit. The Christmas variety show brings along bubbly personality Carol Marie (Sharon Kay White) and country crooner Len (Andrew Diessner). An array of debacles makes the night a bit more interesting than the family anticipated.

Choreography by Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck is exciting, boosting the show forward with Maggie's feisty dance number featuring the ensemble, which was originally cut from the broadcast. (Thank EVERYTHING it happens.) Act two launches with a dynamic number featuring Simon and the ensembles.Review: I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS at Arvada Center

The vocals are spectacular. Racey and Van De Hey as the Bright parents give you that vintage charm you want from a couple who hosts their own show. Mendes's voice is fantastic as he infuses his numbers with palpable emotion. McClay owns every moment, bringing a spunk that makes her the one to watch in several scenes. Standout Darius Jordan Lee breaks out of the ensemble to fill in for a few numbers, and he nails it.

There's a mix of familiar holiday tunes and new music by Nehls. Len's "Christmas on Highway 13" is a new classic, coupled handsomely with Diessner's satiating twang. White brings Carol Marie the charm you'd expect from a goofy best girlfriend, and she's a joy to watch, especially during "The Last Guest at the Party." Also, you get to hear Van De Hey sing O Holy Night, which should be a holiday tradition of its own.

While the show doesn't feel like anything I haven't seen before, it's cute. Christmas variety musicals are everywhere, but this one's focus on family gives it a good soul. The ensemble is vibrant, and there's the thrill of watching a live televised performance. There's even an applause sign!

I'll Be Home for Christmas plays the Arvada Center through December 23. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 1 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. Audience engagement events, including happy hours with the cast, are held through the run of the production. To purchase tickets go to or call (720)898-7200. The Arvada Center is located at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd and provides free parking for its patrons.

Related Articles View More Denver Stories

From This Author - Chris Arneson

Chris Arneson has a degree in mass media from Laramie County Community College, where he was the editor-in-chief of their nationally award-winning student publication. His acting resume includes in productions... (read more about this author)

Review: Immerse Yourself in FROM ON HIGH's Office Cult(ure)
June 27, 2022

What did our critic think? If you've ever worked in an office, you know the corporate culture can start to feel a little culty. That's the premise behind OddKnock's production of From On High, an immersive experience set in RiNO's IMAC building.

Review: MOULIN ROUGE THE MUSICAL Is A Visual Spectacular At The Denver Center
June 18, 2022

See what our critic had to say about this production. 'I can safely say a lot of us musical nerds have been waiting far too long to see Moulin Rouge as a Broadway production, and thankfully the stage production does not disappoint.'

BWW Review: THE WEDDING SINGER at Town Hall Arts Center
June 15, 2022

What did our critic think of THE WEDDING SINGER at Town Hall Arts Center? What's better than a '90s romantic comedy set in the mid 80's? Maybe if it's a musical too.

BWW Review: Arvada Center's KINKY BOOTS is Filled with Heart and Sole
April 14, 2022

Kinky Boots is just one of those shows you can't help but leave feeling just a little sparklier. Based on the British 2005 film of the same name, Kinky Boots follows Charlie Price, who inherits his family's multigenerational shoe factory from his deceased father. In order to keep the business alive, Charlie partners with a drag queen named Lola to produce heels that can withstand the weight of a male figure. 

BWW Review: TOOTSIE is Mostly a Drag at the Buell Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts
April 6, 2022

Oh look, another movie turned musical no one was asking for! When a film is adapted for the Broadway stage (which is almost a given nowadays), I'll get excited if it's a classic I can't wait to see updated and reimagined. The trouble with Tootsie is...I guess I just didn't care from the start.