(LAKEWOOD, NJ) — There's nothing like a good old fashioned holiday special, and The Wag's Christmas Spectacular is steeped in the traditions of holiday TV shows of the past. The Wag will bring back the memories of these specials while putting their own unique stamp upon them. This year’s show is special for the band as they will headline a night at The Strand Theater in Lakewood on Saturday, December 11th at 7:30pm. This will be the band’s first time headlining a show in a theater.
The Wag’s Christmas Spectacular has all of the holiday songs that you know and love, plus dance numbers, costume changes, and comedy sketches, along with some fun surprises - including a few original Christmas/Holiday songs. The Wag’s supporting guests at the Strand Theater will include: Deni Bonet, William Boudiette, Michael Brett, Ralph Capasso, Jamie Marie Hannigan, Dennis Keefe, Thomas Kline, Sheri Mathews, Lisa Charlene Newsome, and James Ostering.
Hailing from the Bayshore area of New Jersey, this 4-piece unit has been entertaining and moving audiences for 20 years. The band includes Brian Ostering (bass and vocals), Alicia Van Sant (keyboards, vocals, percussion, some flute and guitar), Don Lee (guitar and vocals), and Joshua Van Ness (drums, percussion, guitar, and vocals). New Jersey Stage reached out to the band to learn more about headlining a theater for the first time, what Christmas music means to them, and what their favorite holiday songs are.
What does it mean to headline your first theater show?
Brian: It is such an honor! The Strand Theater is a beautiful, historic venue, and the staff are so nice. This is something that we've been working towards, and I'm so happy that we'll be bringing our Christmas Spectacular show to the next level! I hope that this will lead to more opportunities for us in the future. Performing at larger venues gives us the chance to connect with more people, and our goal is to share our music with as many people as possible.
Alicia: It’s very exciting!! We just want to bring the best show we can to the largest amount of people possible, and hopefully this will lead to more opportunities like this in the future, both for holiday shows and for regular Wag shows.
Don: The thought of it is pretty exciting, but I don't think the significance of performing at such a legendary venue in front of the large enthusiastic crowd that The Strand Theater can accommodate will hit until we actually appear on stage that evening.
Joshua: It's really a dream come true, and we're so happy to be doing this at The Strand! The theater is simply beautiful, and the people there have been wonderful to not only us, but to so many other amazing artists and to the local community. Being able to put on a show like this in a place like this was not just a dream, but a goal of ours, and we can't wait to make it happen!
The Wag has created original Xmas songs, what does Christmas music mean to each of you?
Brian: Christmas music brings me joy! I feel like the Christmas spirit brings out the best in people. It's a time for giving, helping out those in need, spending time with family and friends and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas. There's nothing like seeing the smiling faces in the audience when we perform our holiday sets. I'm so proud that we perform nothing but holiday music at our holiday shows; not many bands do that. And we have some original Christmas songs! "Feels Like Christmas" gets a nice amount of attention each holiday season.
Alicia: Christmas is a special time of year for us, as it is for many people. The feelings of warmth, family, and friendship are amplified at that time of year, and the music that is the soundtrack to it makes it even more special. We absolutely love performing it.
Don: With all of the harsh realities we have to face all year, Christmas music evokes a feeling of hope and happiness that we get to experience for a relatively short period of time each year .
Joshua: Besides being with family and loved ones, the music is really our favorite part of the holidays. There are so many great songs and renditions, and I feel like every year another song joins the ranks of the classics! They become the soundtrack of our holiday memories!
And what are your favorite holiday songs?
Brian: I think my favorite holiday songs are: Silent Night - any version, Santa Claus is Coming to Town - Bruce Springsteen, Silver Bells - Johnny Mathis, Angels We Have Heard On High - any version, Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives, Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me - Elvis Presley, Joy To The World - Nat King Cole, Mary Did You Know? - any version, Happy Xmas - John Lennon. I could go on and on and on…
Alicia: To be totally honest, I love our original song, “Feels Like Christmas”! I think it’s really fun, and I’d like it even if I had nothing to do with it. And it’s nice to have something new(ish), rather than hearing the same songs over and over again. A close second, which probably no one else knows, is “Don’t Need A Reindeer", by the Moody Blues. It’s from their 2003 Christmas album, “December”. I tend to like the upbeat Christmas songs. For more traditional ones, I really like “What Child Is This?”, which is set to the melody of the 16th century English ballad “Greensleeves”. It’s so hauntingly beautiful.
Don: There are so many holiday songs of different styles that I enjoy, and all for different reasons. I personally think some of the best holiday pop songs were written between the 1940s - 1970s: "Jingle Bell Rock", "I Believe In Father Christmas", "Let It Snow", "Sleigh Ride", and "Silver Bells". But I also enjoy more modern (if you want to call the 80s modern) songs like "Christmas Wrapping" and "Do They Know It's Christmas?". Then we can venture all the way back to the 16th century for a tune called "Coventry Carol". But perhaps one of the best holiday compositions of all time was written on a hot summer day in 1945 by Robert Wells and Mel Torme, called "The Christmas Song".
Joshua: Growing up we had a few great holiday albums on vinyl! I'm still very fond of some of those songs, like "Please Christmas, Don't be Late" by The Chipmunks, The Temptations' rendition of "Silent Night”, and "Merry Christmas All" by the Salsoul Orchestra. Paul McCartney's "A Wonderful Christmas Time", "This Christmas" by Donny Hathaway, and Lakeside Drive's version of "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" are great too!
Tickets for The Wag's Christmas Spectacular on December 11th are $20 - $25 and available for purchase online. The Strand Theater is located at 400 Clifton Avenue in Lakewood, New Jersey.
The Wag’s sense of humor and their homemade props and costumes are worth the price of admission alone. The show also features a running theme of “Christmas Around the World”. There will be holiday songs and sketches from Ireland, Germany, Spain, & more!
Photos by Kenny Bieber