By Quinn Rigg
As fireplaces begin to glow and kitchens begin working overtime, people are trying to find footing as they take the next steps forward. The nation is in flux, families are in quarantine and entire communities are still in limbo. And yet, hope sits on the horizon. This holiday season has the same capacity for stress as it does for abundant joy.
No strangers to making magic in uncertain circumstances, those with the Beautiful City Project want to deliver some delicious musical merriment to any and every open screen. Chicagoland Musical Theatre has checked in with David Fiorello of The Beautiful City Project to learn more about their latest online musical charity event, Project Mistletoe.
CMT: So, Project Mistletoe: what is it about and how can we watch?
DF: Project Mistletoe is thrilled to be raising money for the great organization Season of Concern. It’s a Holiday Extravaganza, featuring 21 songs, 75 different performers, three choirs, a jazz octet…it’s packing a lot of holiday punch. All performers have Chicago roots, and all who donate to Season of Concern will receive a special gift. It was born out of a desire to stand in the gap for the great work that Season of Carols does every year in Chicago. With no live theatre for which to collect donations and in return give the audience fantastic albums, we wanted to see what we could do to not let this season stand empty. It’s been INCREDIBLE working with Cory Goodrich, who along with Eugene Dizon have expertly run Season of Carols. It’s a team effort for sure. Coming together, what the holiday is all about! It will premiere this Tuesday evening, December 8th, at 7pm CST. You can watch it on The Beautiful City Project’s Facebook Page. And again, it’s a fundraiser for Season of Concern, so we hope that you GIVE, GIVE, GIVE!
CMT: A virtual theatre extravaganza to be sure! In that vein, as we continue to invent and refine theatre as an online medium, how do you feel you’ve grown from Beautiful City’s previous virtual events?
DF: This is a great question. For the thousands of years that theatre has been around, if it was ever going to die, it would be dead by now. I believe that the great thing about artists is that every challenge can be an inspiration, and that’s why I love all of the great art that’s been created during this time. We’re trying to do the same, fueled by our mission statement, as this pandemic has only made things harder for people that we were founded to help in the first place. I think that engine of hope that we’re tapping into has reached into people’s hearts, and we feel that it’s our duty to keep innovating new ways to reach folks. That’s why I think the Top 100 project was such a blessing for us, as we were able to raise funds and awareness for 14 different Chicago organizations in need. Word of mouth has always been one of the best drivers of change, and the more traction we gain, the more of a blessing we can be. I must say, it’s also very humbling to be able to partner with the artists and creative team that I do. I’m only one person, albeit with a big heart, but to see the talent, both on-screen and off, come together for a worthy cause, it also helps restore hope and faith in our amazing community. Truly blessed to be a small cog in the wheel.
CMT: It’s wonderful to see such hopeful messaging in a time of such uncertainty. As we celebrate that resilience and look forward to what we can make of dire circumstances, is there anything new to expect from Project Mistletoe in particular?
DF: Well, I think so! We’ve got two completely original songs, one co-written by Goodrich and Roberta Duchak, the other by myself. Also, nearly all of the arrangements on the album (other than Cory and Roberta’s song) are by me, specifically unique to this event. We’ve got medleys, mashups, and some words of encouragement from our tremendous board of advisers. I think it’s going to be a program unlike any other!
CMT: Sounds like this event’s going to be the best gift we unwrap all season! Given the sentiment of the season and the timeliness of Season of Concern’s work, does this charitable initiative feel any more urgent/vital than past initiatives?
DF: Absolutely. Season of Concern has a track record of knowing how to pivot. Originally founded to help with the AIDS crisis in the 80s, they’ve continually had their pulse on every need of the Chicago theatre community. And during the holidays, especially as there seems to be a glimmer of hope around the corner, I believe that something stirs in peoples’ hearts, and they want to know how they can help. This is a great time to celebrate the people who help, and bring some joy and cheer to what can at times feel like the ever-present darkness. I’ve always been a believer in looking for the folks that help, and help them as much as you can.
CMT: What better way is there to bolster theatre, charity, and holiday cheer all at the same time! Beautiful City’s work helping the helpers is festive all year round. Coming up to the end of an unpredictable year, does Beautiful City have any new year’s resolutions for upcoming 2021?
DF: Not a resolution, per se, but a renewed commitment to affecting change in this beautiful city. There’s so much ground to take for GOOD. And we want to play as large a role as possible in uniting good-doers across this landscape. We’ve only just begun. Year one of The Beautiful City Project has shown that people can come together and help those in need, and I’m looking forward to expanding our hearts to serve more and more of this community! And if YOU want to get involved, I mean there are so many ways! Get in touch with us, join the movement! We could sure use you!
CMT: I don’t think there’s been a better year to put some good out into the world. I’ll expect great things to come of Beautiful City in the next year. And remembering that giving is better than receiving, I’ve got one more question just for festive fun: what is your favorite theatre-related holiday memory?
DF: Oooooh… I have to say, I’m so impressed by Denise McGowan Tracy (on our board of advisors) and her vision that brought ELEANOR’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS WISH to the stage last year (and available for streaming THIS year). I served as music director and did all of the arrangements to Kathleen Butler-Duplessis‘ GORGEOUS tunes, and I remember a small piece of magical underscoring I wrote for a magical moment near the end of the show, and the first time I played it with an audience, I could hear a few young girls and boys audibly gasp and say “Mommy!” And it was such a lovely reminder (no patting on the back here, for sure) that musical theatre can simply do things that other mediums can’t. It can’t do EVERYTHING, but it’s irreplaceable in America’s landscape, and you’ll never kill it. So while things have looked bleak in that regard, there’s so much hope for the future. There’s something about the holidays that can truly, inexplicably change you a bit. Not for everyone and not massively, but sometimes just maybe 5%, and that 5% for a couple of weeks can mean the difference in someone else’s LIFE. So that’s why we’re thrilled to bring you this show on Tuesday night. We hope you’ll catch it, and grow your heart by about 5%.
CMT: Fantastic. Thanks so much for answering these questions!
This celebratory season is founded on the weathering of hard and inhospitable times — what better way to combat a freezing climate and shrinking pantries than a little revelry? Beautiful City’s Project Mistletoe is a hearty celebration to remind us of what is missed, and more importantly, what is to be found. Project Mistletoe is a reminder that despite time and separation, this community stands together, ready to heal. Perhaps the greatest gift of all this season is the hope of moving forward.
The Beautiful City Project presents “Project Mistletoe” December 8 at 7 pm. More information and the event itself may be found on facebook here.