Jonathan Lamb is bringing plenty of Christmas cheer to The Pump House Regional Arts Center this holiday season, first with a special concert and then with a play.
A Sparta native, Lamb has been a fixture on the La Crosse area performing arts scene for most of his life, landing his first role at the La Crosse Community Theatre as a kid back in 1988. Thirty years later, he has made a lot of friendships with other performers, which was a big part of the reason Amy and Chadd Hatlevig reached out to him with their idea: record an album of holiday music and put on an album release concert, with proceeds going to charity.
They figured Lamb could recruit a roster of skilled performers for the project, and they were right.
Being a big fan of Christmas music and always up for a challenge, Lamb jumped right in with the Hatlevigs and easily came up with a cause to which the money would go. His mother, Betty, is seven years into her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, so Lamb decided to donate to the La Crosse Recreation Department for programs that help people with dementia and their caregivers.
The Holiday Extravaganza concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, and it promises to kick off the season in a memorable way.
“I figured Dec. 1 was a safe enough time, being at the point in the season where people aren’t sick of Christmas music yet,” Lamb said with a laugh. “It’ll be a good night to go out and have some fun and get in the Christmas spirit.”
Lamb will serve as the master of ceremonies as well as singing songs with many of the evening’s performers, which include Kelley Bahr (his partner in winning the 2012 Dancing with the La Crosse Stars event), the Hatlevigs, Brittany Styles and Nightcap, Jennifer Livingston, Heather Hughes Quackenboss and the Q’s, Kay Mazza, Susan Hessel and Dick Mial, barbershop quartet Special Export, the Giving Hearts Choir (which includes members with dementia), and the Heart of La Crosse comedy troupe, which Lamb has been a member of since 2013.
“They’re like my second family,” Lamb said, noting they’ll be joined by special guest Christy Wopat. “I call them my comedy family.”
A lot of the songs at the concert will be on the lighter side, including “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.”
The Hatlevigs, who will provide accompaniment at the concert, produced the recordings of performers that are part of the album, which will be available for digital download on Saturday for ticket holders and soon after for the general public.
On the heels of the Holiday Extravaganza, Lamb is directing a play that runs Dec. 13-16 at The Pump House called “Miracle on Christmas Lake.” The play was written by a University of Minnesota-Duluth college friend of his, Jennifer Lind Peterson, who with her husband runs the Yellow Tree Theater in Osseo, Minn.
In the play, a madcap holiday farce, a community theater company in the small Minnesota town of Christmas Lake is on the eve of putting on a production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” when they discover the permission to put it on has been pulled. Scrambling to put together something to put on stage the next day, they decide to present a Christmas-themed version of the soap opera in which the theater’s director used to star.
“I read the play and it is just so funny,” Lamb said. “There’s great Minnesota humor in it and there’s also great slapstick comedy. And it has a nice, happy, warm Christmas ending.”