BWW Interview: Sam Harvey of BROADWAY CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND at Tokyu Theatre Orb (Japan)
Broadway Christmas Wonderland is back in Tokyo for its fourth annual visit! This year's singers include Alfred Jackson, Sam Harvey, Jonathan Heller, Shaunte Massard, Charity Farrell, and Rachel Peterson. Comparable to Radio City Music Hall's traditional Christmas Spectacular in New York City, the Tokyo show is jam-packed with grand displays rarely seen inside a theater. Award-winning ice skating couple Jodeyne Higgins and Sean Rice will gracefully slide across the frozen stage, and even Santa Claus makes an appearance! The show runs at Tokyu Theatre Orb Saturday December 14th until Wednesday December 25th, 2019. You can visit the official websites for tickets and information in both English and Japanese:
HEADS UP! TKTS is now in Japan! Read my article about it HERE.
Sam Harvey is one cast member who has been with the show since the beginning. In a really fun interview session, I learned he comes back every year because he loves sharing Christmas with the world...and longs for the chicken nuggets at Japanese convenient stores??
Every time Sam comes back to Japan, he notices Christmas slowly taking over. Could he be a little bit responsible for the more recent popularity of Christmas; with his smooth voice and positive impressions? Christmas isn't a native holiday in Japan; the main religions are Shinto and Buddhism, with less than 40% of the population actively participating (1). But, for some reason, the spirit of Christmas has permeated Japan's modern society, and this American holiday can be seen more and more each winter. "I have felt that, every year I've come back, there's been a little bit more of a Christmas presence. Whether it's decorations in shops or the hotels, or there's just a lot more Christmas trees, that I've noticed. I think that the novelty of Christmas is so fun. It has great music, and bright lights, and all these colors, and it's just a fun holiday. I was talking to someone yesterday in Japan who sad that they love Halloween and Christmas. Those are two non-native holidays that Japanese people love to celebrate. But if you think about those two very American holidays, they're both just fun. So I think the novelty of Christmas is what makes people want to celebrate it." It's already a week into November, and Christmas music can be heard ringing through shopping streets, with tinsel and twinkling lights wrapped around Christmas trees hiding inside shop windows. The celebration in Japan might last a couple months, but there is not much more that goes on, even on Christmas day. Several decades ago, expats living in Japan were missing home during the holidays, and started the tradition of eating KFC in place of the giant ham or turkey. These days, KFC is still the meal of choice, but it's shared among friends, or considered a date night without expectations of presents. But who's to say what the proper way to celebrate Christmas is? Even in the U.S. each family has their own traditions: "One of the interesting traditions my family has is on Christmas eve we have chili, chicken egg drop soup and tamales. My family is not Spanish at all! But that is just the tradition that we've had." Religious or not, it's safe to assume that we all agree, at least, that Christmas means "that you're surrounded by loved ones, and good food, and good people, and good conversation, and just a whole lot of love!" Since he's spent several Christmases in Japan now, Sam must be an expert in the local cuisine and festivities! "There are certain food things that I NEVER miss. The silly ones are egg salad sandwiches from 7-11 or family mart - they're the best. Chicken nuggets, from Lawsons specifically. Best chicken nuggets. In the world. Love chu-hais. And then ramen and sushi and all those things. And then I definitely go to Harajuku every year and do some shopping, and then try to find some new spots every year. Oh and then massages! Please, I get massaged every year. I've got my spot!" For anyone in Japan who loves Christmas, or is hearing about Christmas for the first time, or wants to know what all the hype is really about, Sam is excited to invite everyone to the Broadway Christmas Wonderland show where "we are going to give them a full on tutorial! It's not a show where you have to follow any sort of story line. It's truly just sitting back and listening to incredible music, watching some beautiful, wonderful dancers. There's also some ice skating. It's just a fun, cool show." And for the audience members who only sing Christmas songs in Japanese? "I don't think you necessarily need to speak English to understand what's going on and enjoy - you're definitely going to enjoy no matter what! I'm jealous of anyone who has not heard these songs before. Anyone who is listening to these songs for the first time, I'm so excited for them because Christmas music is SO good. I think that's pretty cool that we can maybe share that with some people for the first time." If you're coming to the show, look out for a song simply entitled The Christmas Song. It's Sam's favorite, and he gets emotional each time he performs it. "There's the lyrics that 'Every mother's child is gonna spy, to see if reindeer really know how to fly.' It makes me think of my niece and nephew who are age 7 and 3. I think about them waking up on Christmas, or looking up at the sky, looking for Santa's reindeer as I did at their age. I think about my family back at home. And then there's a message at the end, "So I offer you this simple phrase, to kids from 1 to 92. Although it's been said, many times many ways, Merry Christmas to you." I think that is the message of our show in just a verse of a song. I just want to reach out my hand and shake every single person's hand at Theatre Orb, and just greet them with a Merry Christmas. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I just want to put a smile on your face and make you happy and share a holiday that I love so much, in one of my favorite cities in the world." If there's one song we all have in common, it's attempting Mariah Carey's 'All I Want for Christmas' at karaoke. But if you're looking for some new Christmas music this year, Sam suggests checking out his favorite albums The Polar Express movie soundtrack, any Trans-Siberian Orchestra albums, "and then the Home Alone soundtrack is, I gotta say, iconic!"
The show runs at Tokyu Theatre Orb
Saturday December 14th until Wednesday December 25th, 2019.
For tickets and information in both English and Japanese:
To read this article in Japanese, please CLICK HERE.
HEADS UP! TKTS is now in Japan! Read my article about it HERE.
*Photo credit belongs to Tomoko Hidaki. All images used in this article are official promotional images provided by Broadway Christmas Wonderland.