Home for the Holidays | Northern Sky Theater

Home for the Holidays

2021 Concert Show
Doc Heide, Karen Mal & Matt Zembrowski

Between Christmas and New Years

9058 County Road A,
Fish Creek, WI

Celebrating the season, Home for the Holidays will have five performances between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Reunite with Northern Sky favorites Doc Heide, Karen Mal, and Matt Zembrowski for an uplifting evening of intimate seasonal songs, dazzling instrumental fireworks, and delightful holiday humor.

Running time: One hour (approximately) 


“It all started as a opportunity to extend that holiday feeling beyond Christmas morning,” said Holly Feldman, Director of Public Relations, of the beginnings of Home for the Holidays. “So many people talk about the ‘let down’ that follows shortly after the ‘build up’ to the holiday season. Our Home for the Holidays concert has been very popular with folks who cherish the season of giving and don’t want to see it end on December 25th.”

Early evening performances of Home for the Holidays are scheduled for 4pm on December 27-31. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students and $15 age 12 and under. All seats are Reserved.

“The concert is distinctive for how it touches familiar chords and yet explores the new and off-the-beaten track. Imagine buying a new pair of shoes that feel just right right away…There, you’ve got it.” – Warren Gerds, Critic at Large

2021 Cast

Doc Heide

Doc Heide, who’s been on the Peninsula stage since 1973, is co-author of 20 musicals including Belgians in Heaven, Packer Fans from Outer Space, and Guys & Does. He retired from full time teaching last spring at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Francisco and now lives in Door County. This year he’s been supervising doctoral theses, publishing research, writing songs, and forgetting the lyrics of songs he previously wrote. He also presented online courses on mindfulness and self-compassion through Northern Sky and was the final performer (with his wife Jody) in our virtual Winter Season.

Karen Mal is delighted to be returning to the beloved Northern Sky stage. She appeared in the original casts of Northern Sky classics Lumberjacks in Love, Belgians in Heaven, and The Passage, and more recently appeared in And If Elected and Home for the Holidays. In the strange days of the last year and a half, she’s been busy writing and recording songs and videos, performing in a weekly live broadcast to fans far and wide, acting in Shakespeare’s Pericles (via zoom), and has contributed/appeared in tons of content for Northern Sky’s virtual offerings. She also co-leads a hybrid outdoor concert/nature hike series called Strings in the Woods and homeschools her 9-year old daughter Coralina (who is also thrilled to be back in the county!) With all her heart, she misses Neen Rock this season.

Matt Zembrowski

Matt Zembrowski is thrilled to be back at Northern Sky! Previously, Matt supplied the book, lyrics and music for Doctor! Doctor! (premiered 2016) and Dad’s Season Tickets (premiered 2019) for Northern Sky. He also wrote music for and performed in Sunsets and S’mores in 2009. Matt spent the last year recording several “At Home” videos for Northern Sky, and co-headlined Nerd Night with the incomparable Katie Dahl in October. He is grateful beyond words for all those who have helped bring Whatever Happened to Karl Janko? to life, especially Molly Rhode, and the fabulous artists on stage tonight. Matt is a lifelong Wisconsin resident, and currently resides in West Allis with his wife Lori, his daughter Kathryn, and their cat Tom Tom.

Performers By Year
Performers By Year

2019 - Katie Dahl, Rich Higdon & Eric Lewis


2018 - Jeff Herbst, Ryan Cappleman & Tom Donoghue


2017 - Eric Lewis, Katie Dahl & Rich Higdon


2016 - Eric Lewis, Doc Heide & Holly Feldman


2015 - Doc Heide, Amy Chaffee & Craig Konowalski


2014 - Molly Rhode & Chase Stoeger, Katie Dahl & Rich Higdon


2013 - The Rhode Sisters


2012 - Doc Heide, Claudia Russell & Chris Irwin


2011 - Katie Dahl, James Valcq & Karen Mal


2010 - Eric Lewis, Doc Heide & Holly Feldman


2009 - Eric Lewis & Doc Heide (guest Holly Feldman)


2008 - Eric Lewis & Chris Irwin


2007 & 2006 - Scott Wakefield & Claudia Russell




‘Home for the Holidays' again engaging in Fish Creek


Warren Gerds - December 28, 2017


FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) - In the final week of each year, Northern Sky Theater puts on a performance titled “Home for the Holidays” in Old Gibraltar Town Hall. The title and the place stay the same. The cast changes from year to year. Songs change from year to year. The overall tone of warmth and camaraderie stays the same. Performances tend to feel homey and relaxed.


And so it is with the 2017 edition of “Home for the Holidays,” which opened Wednesday to a sold-out house and will close Sunday, Dec. 31, to a sold-out house – and has lots of folks coming in between.


Performing in this show are three skilled and sensitized musicians who this year presented an album-release concert of songs by Northern Sky Theater co-founder Fred Alley – Katie Dahl, Eric Lewis and Rich Higdon. Two of Alley’s song are in this concert. One, “Solid Ground,” contains the line, “I’ll leave my song for you to carry on.” Prescient? It sure seems that way with this threesome.


The concert has a certain spirit.


It also pushes the envelope. One sequence Wednesday held the audience breathless because of this: Eric Lewis is a string instrument whiz. He is playing mandolin. Also playing mandolins are Rich Higdon and Katie Dahl – though the instrument for them is a second or third language. Higdon and Dahl are trying to keep up with Eric Lewis’ lead on tunes everybody knows, starting with “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Little plinks in dinks pop up in their playing as Eric Lewis steams on, but a chorus emerges… the playing is intent (as in firm resolve)… the listening is intense… and the effort and result become golden/wonderful.


Katie Dahl, guitar, mandolin, vocals; Rich Higdon, bass, ukulele, percussion, mandolin, vocals; Eric Lewis, guitars, mandolin, vocals


Musical selections


“Listen to the Angels” – Katie Dahl


“There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” – Eric Lewis


“Angel Dream” – Eric Lewis


“Lombardi Avenue” (Katie Dahl) – Katie Dahl


“Jingle Bells” – Eric Lewis, mandolin, Rich Higdon, spoons


“Solid Ground” (Fred Alley) – Eric Lewis, Katie Dahl


“Christmas in the Trenches” (John McCutcheon) – Katie Dahl


“O Little Town of Bethlehem”/“Ode to Joy”/“Angels We Have Heard on High” – mandolin trio: Eric Lewis, Katie Dahl, Rich Higdon


“Don’t Go Down to Aurora” (Fred Alley) – Katie Dahl


Guitar solo (Eric Lewis) – Eric Lewis


“It Wasn’t His Child” (Skip Ewing) – Eric Lewis


“How’d You Like to Spend Christmas on Christmas Island” – Rich Higdon, ukulele, vocals, Eric Lewis, guitar


“Here Comes Santa Claus” – Katie Dahl; Eric Lewis, mandolin


“In the Dark” (Katie Dahl) – Katie Dahl


“Where is the Light”/“This Little Light of Mine” – Katie Dahl, Rich Higdon, Eric Lewis




‘Home for the Holidays' sifts, winnows


Warren Gerds - December 28, 2016


FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – Doc Heide is an inquisitive sort. He got to wondering how far the Three Wise Men of The Christmas Story traveled. Some scholars say Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar – “sounds like a Palestinian law firm,” Heide says – started in Persia. Some say they started in Yemen. To travel to Bethlehem, they would have traveled either 1,700 or 1,300 miles, respectively. Either way, by camel, “it was a really big deal,” Heide says. Their directions weren’t exactly pinpoint: Under a bright star.


This is part of the lead-in to “Follow That Star,” a song Heide wrote for Northern Sky Theater’s 2016 edition of “Home for the Holidays,” a five-performance concert running through Saturday, Dec. 31, in Old Gibraltar Town Hall.


Doc Heide being a creative sort, “Follow That Star” is not a toss-off ditty. Its words explore the perspective of the Three Wise Men. The music involves Heide in lead with colorings all the way through by colleague Holly Feldman, and at the very end added touches by Eric Lewis; to Heide’s guitar lead, Lewis comes in on mandolin to complete a musical illustration of care and reverence.


The stamp of Northern Sky Theater means something, and the first performance of “Home for the Holidays” attracted a sold-out house. The concert is distinctive for how it touches familiar chords and yet explores the new and off-the-beaten track. Imagine buying a new pair of shoes that feel just right right away…There, you’ve got it.


The concert comes with doses of reverence and irreverence.


Reverence: Songs from old spirituals (“Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain”) to those of new and/or different perspectives, including Heide’s “Follow That Star” (tale of Wise Men) and “Stranger Keep on Walking” (of stable owner) and Lewis' offering of “It Wasn’t His Child” (of Joseph).


Irreverence: A tease of clashing family opinions at holiday gatherings set to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and a lampoon of our next U.S. president with “Tweeting in a Donald Trumperland” set to “Winter Wonderland.” Advice in the latter: “When speaking your mind, it’s best to be kind.”


The performers’ personalities come out. Feldman ranges from light-hearted in tunes with her first name somewhere in them to motherly concern in Katie Dahl’s “In the Dark.” Lewis is a musician whiz with a flair for fun, as in the catchy “I Love the Packers,” told from the perspective of a fan from Tennessee, as he. Heide is a font of creativity, as one would expect of a co-founder of Northern Sky Theater who in his real life in teaching/research deals with matters of the mind. Performing is but a playroom in his house.


The show comes with giveaway prizes. Audience members have to answer multiple-choice questions on the same premise: Which one of these was not a Northern Sky Theater show? The answers are so easy that even I could get them.


Performers: Holly Feldman, vocals, percussion; Doc Heide, vocals, guitars; Eric Lewis, vocals, mandolin, guitar


Musical selections


“Mary Did You Know?” – mandolin-guitar instrumental


“Wasn’t That a Pity and a Shame” – Doc Heide, Holly Feldman


“Run, Run Rudolph” – Eric Lewis


Bob Gibson/Joan Baez’ “Virgin Mary Had One Son” – Holly Feldman, Doc Heide


Doc Heide’s “Follow That Star” – Doc Heide, Holly Feldman


Eric Lewis’ “Off to Lambeau”/“Jimmy Ryan’s” – Eric Lewis mandolin instrumental


Songs with “Holly” in lyrics – Holly Feldman


“Home for the Holidays” – Eric Lewis


“Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head” – Doc Heide, Holly Feldman


Doc Heide’s “The Girl with Winter in Her Eye” – Doc Heide


Skip Ewing’s “It Wasn’t His Child” – Eric Lewis voice-guitar solo


“Winter Wonderland” a spark for parody – All


Katie Dahl’s “In the Dark” – Holly Feldman


Eric Lewis’ “I Love the Packers” – Eric Lewis, then audience


Doc Heide’s “Love Our Enemies” from “Packer Fans from Outer Space” – Doc Heide


“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as spark for parody - All


Doc Heide’s “Stranger Keep on Walking” – Doc Heide


“Go Tell It on the Mountain” – All


Encore; “This Little Light of Mine” – All




‘Home for the Holidays’ is living history


Warren Gerds - December 27, 2014


FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – Music and history and memories and holidays and musicality and marital bonds and a Door County aura are rolled into one in “Home for the Holidays,” a year-ending and era-ending concert running through New Year’s Eve at Old Gibraltar Town Hall.


“We are so proud to be the last show under the moniker of American Folklore Theatre,” performer Molly Rhode told the opening night audience Friday. Throughout the performance, Rhode said (often), “American Folklore Theatre (or AFT), soon to be Northern Sky Theater,” in keeping with the name change that “most sincerely” takes place Thursday, Jan. 1. (One of my article/columns on the change is at http://www.wearegreenbay.com/story/d/story/critic-at-large/35030/-9lniqtYoUi9jwL55ysg0w. The “most sincerely is lifted from the Coroner in “The Wizard of Oz.”)


In its simplest form, “Home for the Holidays” is a folk music-driven show. Performing are four people who are well versed in the genre – Katie Dahl and Rich Higdon (who are married – “To each other,” Dahl noted) and Molly Rhode and Chase Stoeger (who are married). Performing this music to them is akin to water pouring off a roof in a healthy rain – very natural and flowing. Along with vocals, the four tap into a bunch of instruments necessary for their excursion – washboard, upright bass (sometimes two at once), spoons, bells (as in jingle bells), guitars, ukuleles (sometimes four at once!), concertina, shaker/rhythm-sound-making thingie, harmonica, kazoos, mouth harp, mandolin and banjo. My only wish is that Dahl wouldn’t stand so close to her microphone because it masks her mouth and makes some of the lyrics of songs (some of which she wrote) less clear.


The first performance started hot from the performers and the crowd; the hall, set up for 99 seats, was full. It was as if the audience was hungry – a turn-on for entertainers.


The 2014 edition of “Home for the Holidays” is easy to savor. Songs and sections segue to tantalizing cross references. A prime example: “I May Not Be a Football Hero” starts as a slightly risqué tune by the guys that evolves into a four-ukulele ditty/homage to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Packers heroes (even Brett Favre) with Dahl singing of Rodgers, “he helps me R-E-L-A-X.”


The show includes references to the late, great Fred Alley, co-founder of American Folklore Theatre and writer and performer with a supreme tenor voice. His songs in the show illustrate his range from sensitivity to all-out, fired-up rhythmic imagination. To me, it is no accident that the show draws to a close with the performance of his gentle “Beneath the Northern Sky” (source of the troupe’s new Northern Sky Theater name) followed by “Auld Lang Syne.”


VENUE: Old Gibraltar Town Hall, built around 1880, is dominated by white on its exterior and interior. The building near the shore of Fish Creek Harbor in Fish Creek was restored as a project of Gibraltar Historical Association. Among its functions, the rectangular hall is a performance space, with a raised stage that includes an optional stage curtain. The space is historical for American Folklore Theatre as the site of its first fall production, “And If Elected” in 1992, and now as the site for its final production under the name of American Folklore Theatre as the organization officially becomes Northern Sky Theater on Jan. 1, 2015. The fiber board ceiling and wood walls are plain save for historical photos on the walls and wainscoting rimming the lower walls. The floor is of narrow wood strips. The space works quite well for folky performances.