MOM LUVIN’ THEATRE: Robin Chats with Singer/Producer Shea Arender of “Shea: Prince of Christmas”
Come holiday season 2013, Shea Arender, aka “SHEA,” will become this year’s first and only solo artist headlining his own, self-produced musical show on or Off- Broadway. This November, the world premiere is set to launch live in New York City at the St. Lukes Theatre entitled – SHEA “PRINCE OF CHRISTMAS.” SHEA will lead the audience on a musical journey around the world to explore the many joys of Christmas as celebrated by different countries.
Last year, SHEA released his holiday album presented by Lost Gold Records, the Broadway Gold Edition entitled “Every Day’s Christmas”. Featured on it was a co-written original composition, “The Christmas I Met You.” In addition to charting internationally, this single hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary Charts, #3 on the Christmas Singles Chart, and #61 on the “Merry Christmas Network TOP 100 Christmas Songs of All Time” list in its first year of release. “The Christmas I Met You” also made the first Grammy Ballot for “Song of the Year” on the 55th Annual Grammy Awards!
In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, and in light of my ongoing delight in theatre, I seized the opportunity to do an interview with SHEA to share with you about his show.
ROBIN: I understand that the show stems from the success of your #1 Christmas hit, The Christmas I Met You, but includes music from a variety of genres, from Holiday classics to Reggae. What songs are standouts out for you, and how did you go about choosing the selections for your show?
SHEA: New York is such a world center with a lot of global visitors, I thought, rather than giving them a total traditional easy listening style Christmas music show, we would bring a modern feel with classic elements to move Holiday music in the 21st century. The whole process was very intense, though one of the songs that stands out in my mind is a medley I put together called “The Christmas Medley,” which contains five timeless classics in one: “The Christmas Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas,” and “White Christmas.” It’s super cool to get a taste of all of these. We even added a swing dance to the end of the medley. (But that’s supposed to be a surprise!) Give a listen to a song from the show….: https://soundcloud.com/jeffreyrichardsassociates/shea-prince-of-christmas-this.
ROBIN: Does the show have a storyline?
SHEA: We do have some storyline elements. Some of our songs have scenes with dialogue and dance that goes along with track, while others have more of a general narrative.
ROBIN: How do you personally celebrate Christmas? Do you have any vivid childhood memories of celebrating Christmas with your family?
SHEA: I’m huge Christmas fan! I like all of the gaudy decorations, traditional dinner on Christmas eve, and then, normally, I’m performing on Christmas day. I love to celebrate Christmas through song. It has always been about the music to me for the Holidays, singing with my family during Christmas eve. We would play classic Christmas records on vinyl, exchange presents, and eat all kinds of Cajun/Louisiana food. Then, of course, I would get out the PA System and sort of have a Christmas jam session that could last to the wee hours of the morning.
ROBIN: Where are you from, and what was your motivation to present a show with an international vibe? What countries are reflected in the show?
SHEA: I’m from Louisiana and grew up with the sounds of Soulful Delta Blues and New Orleans Jazz which a huge part of background and influence. Though I was always fascinated with other countries and their music. I thought since Christmas was so widely celebrated worldwide and New York was a the center of it, what better way to give the world show of music variety? We have a Reggae segment which takes you to Jamaica, and we have a Bachata/Latin which is native of Dominican Republic.
SHEA: The creative process began in 2009, when I began composing modern Christmas songs. I just wanted some new songs to be in the Traditional rotation that play every year. I was already working as a former actor/singer in my other show “The Wonderful Wizard of Song” (www.thewonderfulwizardofsong.com) that I’m an associate producer on. So with catching the attention of some other Broadway Guru’s and giving them a sample of the show last year at the National Arts Club it was soon excepted as a potential reality, and for that I’m very thankful.
ROBIN: What ages is the show intended for? What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?
SHEA: This is truly for all ages. I also hope audiences look at this as a “Life Celebration” of unity. We do not have a religious or political agenda. We are open to all cultures and religions.
ROBIN: Do you plan to make the show an annual NYC tradition?
SHEA: That would be wonderful, yes we do. We will be going to Europe next season for a brief tour as well. I would love to have a presence every season in NYC.
ROBIN: What is most exciting to you about NYC during the holidays?
SHEA: The energy in the air is second to none. The walks in all the many parks, seeing the city Christmas lights lite up, the caroling groups singing, ice skating at Bryant Park and hearing Frank Sinatra over the PA. It’s almost like living in a movie.
ROBIN: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
SHEA: We are excited to be here in NYC. I know everyone will enjoy this show. I almost feel like some of the scenes in the show will represent a picture in the mind. It will bring back memories of the recent and the old. We want to bring a nice positive spirit of laughter and just good fun humor to people lives.
So many Christmas shows follow a similar routine, and I wanted to do something different, something unique with the music. Many Christmas shows can be a little draggy with all the ballads, so I compiled a list of arrangements in about eight different genres of music. A lot of the arrangements I arranged myself, and with others I got creative by adding my own spin to another artist’s adaptation. I also have three original compositions in the show as well. It will be a fun, exciting experience! We have worked really hard to make sure that you leave the show inspired and in the holiday spirit.
Shea: Prince of Christmas opens November 13 and runs through December 27, 2013. Visit http://www.shealive.com/princeofchristmas/index_detect.php.