Thirty-seven years ago, First Presbyterian Theater Managing Artistic Director Thom Hofrichter met Tom Didier when they performed Of Mice and Men at the Fort Wayne Civic Theater.
These two friends are now starring in an original performance that combines their talent and creativity as they, along with pianist Tommy Saul, deliver a holiday-themed series of songs, stories, and surprises that celebrate the season.
Didier is a Fort Wayne theater regular with several appearances at the Civic Theatre under his belt, but this is his First Presbyterian Theater debut.
Fort Wayne native Saul graduated from Bishop Luers High School and has amassed an impressive résumé that includes being the resident music director for Three Rivers Music Theatre. Director Hofrichter is completing his 22nd year in his role with the FPT this month.
Regular FPT theatergoers are no doubt familiar with Hofricther’s distinct delivery, humor, and directorial standards, and this performance does not disappoint.
With festive decorations as a backdrop, the “Tom, Thom, and Tommy Show” is split into two acts, which Hofrichter identifies in his director’s notes as the secular and the spiritual.
The opening series of passages provides a delightful soundtrack of popular songs and stories. While Saul remains fixed at the keyboard, Didier and Hofrichter perform solos and duets with engaging renditions of classics such as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” On his own, Didier stretches from crooner to rocker with exuberant versions of tunes such as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Hofrichter intersperses the tunes with dramatic readings from classic Christmas tales by Charles Dickens and Clement Clarke Moore, the author of “The Night Before Christmas.” One of the most stirring portions of the opening act is a mixed-genre interpretation of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” which features Didier and Hofricter offering character-driven vignettes that connect with the theme of the classic song. This was a lovely segue into the second act due to its personal approach.
Hofrichter also said that the second act is devoted to the heralded “true meaning of Christmas.” Through poignant slivers of significant verses from the Bible, Hofrichter and Didier bookend the stage with spoken-word and musical companionship to the story of the birth of Christ.
Magically woven into the original script is a connectivity of this beautiful theme to all viewers, regardless of their individual religious foundation. There is a distinct sense of humanity embedded in the second act.
Throughout the performance, viewers are likely to recall personal memories of the holiday season and reflect on the significance of those memories. The value of attending a review such as this has the same majestic power as all theater has: the opportunity to connect the performance to our own lives.
With a balanced series of playful, heartbreaking, and spiritual songs and stories, this show is the perfect holiday season experience for audiences of all ages.
Perhaps in the same way as Ebenezer Scrooge was, we are afforded the opportunity to view our pasts and re-experience those joyous innocent days of childhood when we first learned about the holiday.