Trans-Siberian Orchestra eyes Mohegan Sun Arena with expanded production
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — With a big sound and an even bigger production, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has grown to become one of the biggest names in holiday entertainment over the last two decades.
Now, in its 20th year, TSO returns, for shows at 3 and 8 p.m. Nov. 25, to the Mohegan Sun Arena to perform “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” for the second consecutive year.
Founding member and composer Paul O’Neil said 20 years has gone by in the blink of an eye.
“Honestly, it feels like 20 minutes,” O’Neil said. “I would love to say that we planned for the Christmas trilogy to resonate like this, but it was just pure luck. Normally, you have like five or six platinum albums, then you take on Christmas. Of course, we took it on first, and the rest of the year, later. It’s all worked out.”
The group rose to popularity after producing and performing its trilogy of holiday-themed rock operas, which included “Christmas Eve and Other Stories,” “The Christmas Attic” and “The Lost Christmas Eve.”
Although other records, like “Beethoven’s Last Night” have gained traction with fans, the Christmas trilogy has been TSO’s bread and butter, and the orchestra has toured yearly since 1999 with sets based on that trilogy.
Then, last year, the progressive rock juggernaut adapted O’Neil’s made-for-TV movie, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve,” into a massive stage production to give audiences a look at something new.
The story of a runaway who takes shelter in a shuttered vaudeville theater and learns valuable life lessons from the ghosts who inhabit the place was a hit with fans.
A rock opera in its own right, “Ghosts” features TSO classics like “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” “Good King Joy” and “Music Box Blues.”
O’Neil said the amount of mail from fans who wanted to see the show run again was considerable.
“We exist for the fans,” O’Neil said.
The composer also pointed out that the show offers an opportunity to reach multiple generations at once by portraying different time periods. A video introduction shows an old theater and the late Ossie Davis, who starred in the original film, and by the third song, O’Neil said, the band is on stage and the crowd is shot into the present.
“It’s kind of cool when you see a teenager lean over to their parents and say, ‘Who is that guy?’” O’Neil said. Parents “start to explain who Ossie Davis is.”
O’Neil said it’s “magical” to see a father and teenage kid enjoying the same music.
The 2016 production, O’Neil said, will be full of new stage sets and effects in an effort to make the audience feel more like a part of the show than ever before, and the orchestra will have new, young talent to showcase.
“We have a lot of new singers this year,” O’Neil said. “We’re over 60 now. We’ve had our fun on the flight deck. In some ways, it’s more fun watching these kids taking it to another level.”
Following in the TSO tradition, $1 to $2 of every ticket sold will be given to select local charities.
O’Neil said TSO members have been fortunate and would like to think if they were in need someone would help them.
“If you’re going through a rough time any time in life, it’s bad, and during the holidays, it’s even worse,” O’Neil said. “We’ve been really lucky in life. We can do it. It’s totally our pleasure.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts
If you go:
What: Trans-Siberian Orchestra 2016 Winter Tour
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Township.
When: Shows are at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Nov. 25.
Additional information: Tickets start at $33 and are available at the arena box office, online at ticketmaster.com and by phone at 800-745-3000.