Friday, December 21, 2012

Candlelight with John Stamos

Today is the very last day of the Candlelight Processional at the Disneyland Resort for 2012.  After normally only having it one weekend of the year for 2 nights, this year they upped the ante and had 20 straight nights of Candlelight with 2 performances each night.  There were a total of 8 different narrators during those 20 nights including Dennis Haysbert, Kurt Russell, Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dick Van Dyke, Patricia Heaton, Molly Ringwald, and John Stamos.  
Theresa and I were able to attend Candlelight 4 times this year and hear Kurt Russell, Edward James Olmos, Dick Van Dyke, and tonight, John Stamos.  This is actually our second time seeing John Stamos perform Candlelight.  The first was our first time ever seeing Candlelight way back in 2008.

We got off work as early as we could and headed to the park.  It must be a really busy day today.  The exit ramp was really backed up for Disneyland, and it took 20 minutes to get to the parking structure and then parked.  I thought that was pretty bad, but some friends of mine who came later said that it took them an hour and a half to get parked.  Wow...

Once we got to the park, we still had quite a bit of time before the 5:30 showing of Candlelight.  I knew exactly what I wanted to go see in the meantime.  The festival arena in the back of Big Thunder Ranch has been having special events more and more frequently.  Previously they had Halloween decorations back here, but now it's all dressed up for Christmas.

They even have special food!  Here are their Monte Cristo bites, a portable version of the sandwich you can get from the Blue Bayou and Cafe Orleans.  I thought they were tasty, and they even included jelly and powdered sugar to dip them in.  I offered Theresa a bite, but she refused.  She doesn't subscribe to my theory that grease and oil help lubricate your joints and keep your body running like a well oiled machine.  More for me.

The great part of the festival arena setting is that the characters can wander around and interact with people.  Goofy is appraising the stage.

And we even had a Santa Claus sighting.

We had arrived just as the previous show was finishing, so we sat down in the very front row and waited the half hour until the next show started.  
I wonder how the Billys know whose present is whose. 

Before long, all the Billys were out on stage.  We love seeing them here at the festival arena.  Their shows are 30 minutes long back here, which is great because it gives you more time to see them, plus a little more variety.  
One of the first things they said was how happy they were to be back here, and that a big inspiration for performing were the Country Bears who used to perform in Critter Country.  The Billys would watch their shows hundreds of times and were amazed at how they kept cranking shows out over and over.  Those bears were machines.  They were a bit sad though because even after seeing the Country Bears hundreds of times, the Bears hadn't even come to see their show once. 

The Billys love Christmas and it looks like a lot of you really love Christmas too.  These two people here in the front row look like they really really love Christmas.  Probably maniacal about it even.

Which two people do you think he was talking about?

It's such an awesome setting back here.  Which would you rather do, stand in line to get a photo and an autograph from a character, or be sitting watching a show and then have a character come up to you and dance with you?

Billy played a fun fiddle melody that included Do You Hear What I Hear, Silver Bells, We Three Kings, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Little Drummer Boy, 12 Days of Christmas, Joy to the World (the Three Dog Night version first, then the proper Christmas version). 

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!

We even heard them singing in high pitched voices impersonating Chipmunks singing Christmastime is here.

We even had a fun sing-along singing lots of fun Christmas songs, and we got called out again by Billy saying he was sure we knew the words so we better be singing.

And at the end of the show, the Billys even got their wish and had the Country Bears come out and join them!

The grabbed a few people from the crowd and did a dosey doe.

And then posed for a great ending.  It was an awesome show and Theresa and I were smiling the whole time.  I'm glad we didn't miss it this year.

By the time we left the festival arena, it was almost 5pm and we had to make our way to the front of the park.  They had already closed off the center of Main Street even though the procession wouldn't be coming by for another 30 minutes.  It made for crowded conditions on the sidewalks, but eventually we made it to the front.  I was hoping to be able to squeeze in to the standing section and see something, but when we got there, it was completely packed and there was no chance I'd be able to get a decent shot.

Instead, we saw Armand and Robbin D'Alo standing on Main Street waiting for the second show at 7:30, so we joined them in line.  The big plus to this was that I'd be able to get some shots of the processional as they came down Main Street.  This is the first time I've really been able to see this part up close.   

Everyone I looked at was enjoying it, and even Dakota looked happy.

We stood talking with Armand and Robbin for a while, and they even got out cookies they bought earlier and passed them out to people waiting in line.  
With 30 minutes before the show started, we were led into the standing area.  Armand and Robbin took the benches, while Theresa and I headed for the ropes.  Armand knows so many cast members at Disneyland and he happened to recognize one, and they chatted for a little while before the show.  Just before the show starts, the cast member comes over to Theresa and I on the ropes and says to come with them, we're taking a field trip.  There were two open seats that had a great view of the stage that Armand was able to get us seated in!  Awesome!  Thanks Armand!

From here, we had a great view of the trumpeters on top of the Main Street Railroad station. 

And just a great view in general.

Plus I was a good 20 yards closer to narrator's podium, so my photos of John Stamos turned out even better!

The green tree in the center made up entirely of Disney cast members.  They volunteer their time not just for this show, but for multiple rehearsals in the months leading up to it, just to make sure it turns out fantastic.

John Stamos showing his appreciation.

Nancy Sulahian conducting some members of the Voices of Liberty.

John Stamos did a fantastic job.  


One of the members of the Dapper Dans, Drew Tablak, singing Silent Night.  It's just one of the many highlights of Candlelight.

And when Nancy leads the whole audience in a verse, you just get chills hearing that many voices singing around you.

"He was born in an obscure village, the son of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of those things one usually associates with greatness.

He had no credentials but himself.

He was turned over to his enemies and went through a mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life."

The Hallelujah chorus is also one of my favorite parts of the show, though quite a few people forget that you are supposed to stand up during it.  We didn't give the people behind us much of a choice.  As soon as it started, we stood right up.

John Stamos was really getting into it as well.  I'm so glad I switched to video during the final portion of the show.  His ending comments were beautiful and full of emotion.
I love how he didn't just read from a supplied script, or just say a sentence or two and that's it.  He really engaged with the audience and showed his love and appreciation for being there that night. After the show, I made my way closer to the stage to get a few more photos of the orchestra and Nancy.  They play music for a solid 5 minutes while the choirs is walking out, and I don't think I'd ever be able to get shots like these unless I happened into some very fortunate seats.   
A big thanks to all the members of the orchestra.  I know there were many nights where they played through damp conditions to bring us this show.
At the final note, she sliced her baton through the air to silence note and turned around with a huge smile on her face.  After 20 nights and 40 performances (minus a few cancelled by rain), I'm sure it was a joy and a relief to be done.   Nancy walked all through the orchestra giving hugs and thanking the musicians for all they had done. 
She even took a quick moment with Robbin, Armand, Theresa and I to say hi.
So that was it.  It was an amazing season for Candlelight, and it really puts Theresa and I in the Christmas mood.  We've enjoyed seeing it this year with great friends, met some new friends along the way, and we can't wait until it comes back next year. Interesting side note, looks like John Stamos found my video on youtube and posted it on his twitter feed as well as his facebook page.

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