DFW Actors Give Back donates $10K for kids

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Libby Serber, second from left, present the check from DFW Actors Give Back.

DFW Actors Give Back, the nonprofit that has produced three albums of Christmas music under the banner Holidazzle, donated $10,500 to the Children’s Cancer Fund last month. That amount represents 100 percent of sales from the Holidazzle: Encore! CD, which was released last fall and sold around North Texas theaters during the holiday season. That brings the total donated to charity since 2009 to more than $35,000.

Children’s Cancer Fund was chosen as this edition’s charity in honor of Libby Serber (pictured next to co-founder Bob Hess, who is currently starring in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike), daughter of local actress Cara Statham Serber, who survived a serious bout with cancer over the last two years.

Visit DFWActorsGiveBack.org to learn more about the group.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Holidazzle’ comes back for 3rd CD

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Jordan Willis, Bob Hess and Tony Martin, during the recording of Holidazzle II.

We’re getting to expect it every other year, like Congressional elections: In 2009, members of the group DFW Actors Give Back joined together for a charity CD of Christmas music called Holidazzle. In 2011, the were back with Holidazzle II. Well, a glance at the calendar tells you its time for the third disc, called Holidazzle: Encore! Once again, actors, singers and musicians from around the Metroplex are joining forces to donate their time and talent for another collection of carols and hymns. And once again, a children’s charity — this time the Children’s Cancer Fund — will be the recipient of their largesse.

According to Bob Hess, president of DFW Actors Give Back, sales from Holidazzle II led to $15,000 in donations in 2011; they hope to meet or exceed that this time.

No word yet on what songs or performers will be featured, but the talent in North Texas has always turned out for some great numbers.

The CD will be available, as before, in participating theater lobbies during November and December, but also via download.

To learn more, visit DFWActorsGiveBack.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DFW Actors Give Back presents $15K to Jonathan’s Place

DFW Actors Give Back, the nonprofit started in 2009 by five gay North Texas theater artists to raise money for Jonathan’s Place, has announced the proceeds from their second effort have been distributed to the children’s charity. The donation was $15,000.

The monies were raised through sale of the CD Holidazzle Act II.

Most theater companies in the area offered the CD, comprised of seasonal tunes performed entirely by local actors and musicians, for sale in their lobbies throughout November and December. Proceeds went entirely to charity, once production costs were covered. All artists associated with the CD volunteered their talents.

The $15,000 donation marks an increase of about 50 percent from the original Holidazzle, which resulted in a donation of nearly $10,000 in early 2010.

Flower Mound Performing Arts Theatre raised the most money, taking in nearly $2,000 during its holiday season; WaterTower Theatre was the second-highest market. Other participating theaters include Circle Theatre, Dallas Children’s Theater, Kitchen Dog Theater, Onstage in Bedford, Stage West, Theatre Arlington, Theatre 3 and One Thirty Productions.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

All that dazzle

Local actors get in the Christmas spirit with ‘Holidazzle Act II’ release

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

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2.5 out of 5 stars
HOLIDAZZLE ACT II
DFW Actors Give Back
Independent

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Two years ago, local actors, musicians and other theater folk banded together for Holidazzle, a CD of Christmas music that featured some amazing voices in town while benefiting the charity Jonathan’s Place. It was a win-win for carol-loving Dallasites.

Now another, bigger chorus of actors is back with a healthy collection of holiday tunes. Holidazzle Act II is filled with heart, but not without a few bumps.

The disc opens strong with “That’s What Christmas Means to Me” featuring Denise Lee, Jeff Kinman, Susan Mills and Darius-Anthony Robinson and impressively displays a crisp production value — from the percussion to the vocals, the sound is crystal clear. It’s a promising start as the music is layered well but with a nice simplicity. And Kerry Huckaba’s bass ends up as a star here.

I have to admit I was worried about their take on “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” especially after reading that Jim Johnson, K. Doug Miller, Gregory Lush, B.J. Cleveland and David Coffee were all doing vocals. We’ve all heard it with the signature deep voice, but these guys pull off a great jazzy rendition with different but appropriate personalities for the tune. It’s really hard to get through this one without a smile.

“Snow” from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas movie soundtrack should win over die-hard fans, but at first, this version seems to have too many voices; they eventually come together in a beautiful, cheery mix. The added chorus gives it an old-fashioned, charmingly seasonal touch. This is what you want to hear while gleefully shopping at Macy’s without a care in the world.

RAZZLE ‘EM  |  DFW Actors Give Back’s adult chorus comes together again for a sometimes bumpy but consistently charming ‘Act II.’

RAZZLE ‘EM | DFW Actors Give Back’s adult chorus comes together again for a sometimes bumpy but consistently charming ‘Act II.’

The group knocks it out of the park with the hilarious “Twelve Daze of a Theatrical Christmas.” It may sound inside-jokey, but clever lyrics by Miller make this a viable comedic piece. If you think you’ll be over the repetition of the usual lyrics, don’t worry. They give the song as many twists as possible and they all work.

They also succeed in “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings.” While practically a carbon copy of the Barenaked Ladies/Sarah McLachlan version, it works so well one could easily listen to it over and over.

But the album is not without misses. The cover of Celine Dion’s “The Prayer” has a personal tone but with six voices doing the work, it derails into a mess. While the harmonies are beautiful, the song’s intention is flooded over. Then there’s “Silent Night.” It’s a carol everyone wants to put their stamp on, but it’s also the one listeners tend to want to hear a traditional version of. The chorus here is a bit too chipper; “Night” needs a more Zen-like feel, and the harp challenges the voices rather than working in agreement with them. Even if they wanted to continue in this tone, the song is not audibly smoothed out.

Other tracks lack the lead-in’s excellent production quality. Gary Floyd, Sonny Franks and Todd Hart do sublime a capella work on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” but the voices get tinny in the mix at times. Julie Johnson gives an ideal performance in the fun “Christmas Eve,” but the turned-up bass distracts. The Patty Breckenridge–Ashley Puckett-Gonzales duet works well for the dramatic “Where are You, Christmas,” but the music begins to overrun their voices despite Scott Eckert’s emotional arrangement and direction.

Despite these issues, the album as a whole works magic. There is enough tradition here to appreciate the songs with added freshness on other tunes to make it interesting.

Holidazzle Act II is on sale in local theaters during the holiday season or available online at  DFWActorsGiveBack.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Holidazzle Act II’ readies for Christmas release

Two years ago, a cabal of five gay North Texas theaterfolk, calling themselves DFW Actors Give Back, gathered their friends and colleagues in a recording studio and laid down tracks to seasonal carols like “O, Holy Night” and frigidly fun songs like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” all sung, played, arranged and produced by the area’s significant local talent. The album, called Holidazzle, was sold during the Christmas season in theater lobbies throughout the Metroplex, will all proceeds raising money for Jonathan’s Place.

We don’t wanna sound ominous, but … they’re ba-aaac-k! And bigger than before.

A total of 40 singers and musicians appeared on Holidazzle; the new CD — called, surprisingly enough, Holidazzle II: Dazzle Harder (not really — I made up that last part; it’s really called Holidazzle II: Electric Boogaloo … No, I lied again; it’s really called Holidazzle Act II) — gathers 150, including a children’s chorus, on just one track, Carly Simon’s “The Night Before Christmas.”

If you can imagine it, they were doing all this work during the stifling heat of summer; as of today, Holidazzle Act II is in the can, with people like Doug Miller, Denise Lee and Bob Hess, pictured, doing their best work, and all for free.

Once again, sales — which start in November at area theaters and performing arts venues — will benefit the charity Jonathan’s Place. But you don’t have to wait till then; you can pr-order now at DFWActorsGiveBack.org. Yeah, it doesn’t feel much like Christmas to me, either, but give retailers a week — they’ll be decking the malls with boughs of holly before your first pumpkin pie.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones