• Sun. Sep 19th, 2021

Closed during pandemic, Majestic Theater creates ‘Home for the Holidays’ window display

WEST SPRINGFIELD — While social distancing means the Majestic Theater can’t bring audience members in for its annual holiday show, the theater’s scenic artist has found a way to bring her designs out to the community.

Since the start of December, passers-by on Elm Street have been able to enjoy a slice of “Home for the Holidays” in the theater’s café picture window, with a decorated Christmas living room scene from the theater’s long-running holiday production.

“People have stopped and taken pictures with their little kids in front of the window,” said Danny Eaton, the theater’s producing director. “It’s been a really nice reminder of things that were, and things that will happen again, once we get past this COVID thing.”

The window was designed by Bev Browne, a West Springfield native. She has been the theater’s scenic artist for 22 years, including the whole 12-year history of “Home for the Holidays.” When it became clear that COVID-19 restrictions would continue into the holiday season, she said the Majestic Theater had to do something to continue bringing holiday cheer to her hometown.

“The Majestic has always been the thing that brought people to Elm Street in West Springfield on weeknights,” she said. “It was really sad, to me, not seeing any activity along Elm Street at night. I said to Danny, ‘I’m going down to decorate the window.’”

Browne said she always loved visiting the flagship Macy’s store in New York and seeing the decorated windows there. She said it was theater board member Todd Kadis’ suggestion that they recreate the “Home for the Holidays” set.

“At Home for the Holidays,” the Majestic Theater’s decorated window on Elm Street in West Springfield, was designed by scenic artist Bev Browne.

This is the first year in more than a decade without a “Home for the Holidays” production. The annual show takes the form of a midcentury TV variety special — “like the Perry Como ones,” Eaton said — with Ray Guillemette as host, and other Majestic Theater actors dropping in to provide songs and entertainment, accompanied by a live band. The stage decoration recreates a traditional Christmas living room.

Browne said she didn’t have to change much. Since the same set is used every year, each piece just needed to be taken out of storage. Co-workers Aurora Ferraro, Jake Golen and Stephen Petit helped with the assembly.

The only difference is the absence of the actors and musicians. Instead, outdoor speakers offer an all-Christmas radio station as accompaniment.

Eaton said the window decoration has become one of two spots of joy in an otherwise difficult year. The theater, a nonprofit organization, hasn’t been able to put on any shows since March, and furloughed most of its 30 employees, including Browne and Eaton.

The other bright spot has been the success of the theater’s annual Corvette raffle, its major fundraiser. Despite not being able to sell tickets at the Big E or Holyoke Mall, the raffle is on track to make money thanks to an online marketing push. Tickets are $10 each and available at majestictheater.com or 413-747-7797. Winners will be drawn on Dec. 31, with a 1960 red Chevrolet Corvette as first prize and a 2001 Harley-Davidson motorcycle as second prize.

The theater has also been helped by federal Paycheck Protection Program and Small Business Administration loans.

The “Home for the Holidays” window will stay up until New Year’s, Eaton said. He said he hopes to redecorate the window sometime in January with a Valentine’s Day theme.