Ashley Brown, who plays the title character in Mary Poppins
at the New Amsterdam, has so far enjoyed an almost strictly Disney career. Straight out of school, she was cast in their tour of On the Record
, which led to playing Belle in Beauty and the Beast
on Broadway. That, in turn, was followed by her casting in the title role of the canny nanny.
Brown's favorite holiday moment occurred in her native Florida, home of Disney World. "When I was nine and Santa Claus brought me two puppies: Chelsea and Abigail," she recalls. Brown is unable to go home this year because of her performance schedule, "but I'm sure that some of us in the cast will get together and celebrate -- play board games and eat lots of food." And what might Ms. Poppins do in observance of the holidays? Brown believes "that she'd enjoy a spot of rum punch."
Her holiday wish for the theatrical community would be "that everyone can be with their loved ones and be thankful for who and what they have in their lives."
Danny Burstein, who's delighting Broadway audiences with his Tony-nominated turn as the satin Latin lover Aldolfo in The Drowsy Chaperone, says that his favorite holiday tradition is "spending time with my kids [Alexander, 13, and Zachary, 10]. Every year, we go to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and all the beautiful decorations in New York, then we celebrate Christmas at my parents' house in Queens. I love watching the boys opening their presents. It's a thrilling time for my wife Rebecca [Luker] and me."
This year, Burstein will again celebrate at his parents' place. How does he think Aldolfo would observe the holidays? "By sending pictures of himself to all his female friends -- wearing nothing but a Christmas stocking."
Burstein's wish for the theatrical community is "hoping that the spirit, strength, and dedication of Patrick Quinn [the Actors' Equity president who died in September] be carried on in the new administration. Knowing that Mark Zimmerman [the new president] was Patrick's best friend gives me great hope that Patrick's legacy will survive. My heart is with all of the elected officials and the people in the council to keep Patrick's memory alive."
Brian d'Arcy James, who plays leading men Adam, Sanjar, and Flip in the three one-act musicals that comprise The Apple Tree at Studio 54, recalls that, as a child, "My dad would take me, my two sisters, and my brother in the car at night on Christmas Eve to look for Santa. That way, my mom could put presents under the tree. For years, we'd pile into the car, look at the lights, and watch the sky." But there were no signs of reindeer.
He acknowledges possessing an Everyman quality, not unlike Alan Alda, who originated his Apple Tree roles in the original Broadway production. "I heard a story that [Alda] was trying to decide between Apple Tree and another show, and he chose this because of Adam's last speech: 'Eve died today...' " So how does James suppose that Adam would celebrate the holiday? "He'd probably knock down something to put in the hut: a bush or a small fir. Then Eve would come in and create the first ornament and force me to go out and find things to make the tree look pretty."
This year, James is looking forward to the holidays because "we'll be at home: my wife Jennifer [actress Jennifer Prescott] and daughter Grace [who's five] and me. The last couple of years, I've been in White Christmas and we've been in corporate apartments at Christmastime." His holiday wish for the theater community? "That the enormous amount of dedication and generosity the theatrical community shows, especially in things like Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, keeps inspiring people."
Lea Michele, who plays the leading female role of Wendla in Spring Awakening at the Eugene O'Neill, shares an annual Christmas Eve tradition with her parents. "We have dinner, we each open one present, and then sit on the couch and watch holiday videos all night," says Michele, who's an only child. "It's so nice to have that quiet time with my mom and dad; it's the calm before the storm. On Christmas morning, I go over to my aunt's house, where there are 20 cousins. There's so much wrapping paper that you can't even find the children."
The tradition continues. "My parents live ten blocks away. We'll be watching videos. They never get old." Does she mean both her folks and the tapes? "Exactly!" she replies. Michele thinks that her character, Wendla, "would love the holidays, to be with her family and feel the goodness of the season."
Her holiday wish is "that there will be new and original pieces on Broadway, and more jobs for actors. Right now, there are so many actors doing such beautiful work, such as Christine Ebersole in Grey Gardens. And I feel so lucky to be in Spring Awakening!"
Steve Solomon, whose one-man show My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish, and I'm in Therapy is at the Little Shubert, claims that his favorite holiday moment was when "my dad decided to put a menorah on top of the tree. It was too heavy and the tree collapsed."
Solomon also recalls driving around Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. "My mother would count the houses with gorgeous lights, and my father would look for menorahs. If a house didn't have one, he'd say, 'They're probably Jewish but don't want to say anything.' " Is this stuff all true? "So many people ask if the characters I do in the show are real. I always tell them yes, allowing for artistic license. This year, I'll be celebrating the holidays in court; after seeing the show, my parents are suing me to have my artistic license revoked."
His holiday wish is that, "at my show and all the others, Ivan the Terrible, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Dr. Mengele, Scrooge, and the Grinch won't sit in the first row as they always do."
Michael Potts, who plays father and son Brooks, Sr. and Jr. in Grey Gardens, recalls a particular Christmas at his maternal grandparents' house in South Carolina. "Everyone was treating the day before Christmas as any other day. A Christmas tree was up and some presents were under it, but I remember being upset when I went to bed. The next morning, when I woke up, it looked as though Walt Disney had redecorated the living room. There were wagons full of toys and candy and fruit; there were stockings, a fake-snow scene, and a huge bicycle. It was kind of amazing!"
Come Christmas, Potts will celebrate "at my place in Brooklyn [where he was born] with my sisters and their children, and my mom. Her siblings might come by, depending if they're in New York or South Carolina. It could be seven people, or upwards of a hundred." Does he have a big place? "It will have to hold them," he says with a laugh.
The actor imagines that his Grey Gardens characters would celebrate "very much the way I do, with family. They probably wouldn't go far, because they'd be on call from the Beales." Potts' holiday wish is "that we continue to prosper, that we continue to be people that others want to come and spend a couple of hours with in the theater, that we pray for the soldiers and other people who can't celebrate with their families."