‘Home for the HiloDays’ returns with music, comedy, dancers and special guests

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Remember the classic Christmas TV specials? Those star-studded extravaganzas hosted by the likes of Carol Burnett, Donny and Marie Osmond, Sonny and Cher, Bob Hope and Perry Como. Even “Star Wars” got into the act with a holiday special of its own in 1978.

The festive shows folded in a plethora of performances, seasonal songs and amusing antics, along with special guests and other surprises.

The cast and crew for “Home for the HiloDays” 2022 have been working for two months to bring the festive holiday variety show to the stage of the historic Palace Theater in Downtown Hilo. Courtesy photos.

“My family would gather and watch them together,” said Larry Reitzer. “It was one of my favorite parts of the holidays.”

The Big Island can experience that same nostalgia live this weekend at the historic Palace Theater in Downtown Hilo during “Home for the HiloDays” 2022.

The holiday tradition returns for its third year at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16 and Saturday, Dec. 17, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 18.

“We cannot wait to welcome back all of our Big Island friends and family, old and new, to one of the most beloved events in and around Hilo,” Palace Theater Executive Director Phillips Payson said in a press release. “Only a Scrooge would not want to join in on this incredible lineup of vocalists, musicians and dancers in this spirited ode to the magic of Christmas past and present.”


The show is the brainchild of Reitzer and Charles Bankhead Haines, who also are the directors.

Haines and Kyden De Sa will host the variety show, which is a sort of flashback to those old-school televised holiday specials of yesteryear. It mixes music, comedy, special guests, more than 20 dancers and a live band.

“One of the things I’m most excited about this year is our guest stars,” Reitzer said.

Mark Yamanaka, a 14-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano award winner, will perform Friday night only. Kristian Lei, who starred in the international company of “Miss Saigon” and the international production of “Once on This Island,” will light up the stage Saturday and Sunday. Joining them will be world-class singer and vocal improviser Rhiannon, who recently completed a sold-out European tour with Bobby McFerrin.

Also featured in the cast, which has been working for the past two months in preparation for the show, are Kyra Gomes, Payton Sullivan, Bridge Hartman, Sam Deitch and Aleah Kay. Haines and Asha Azama are musical directors, and the show will highlight choreography by several Big Island artists.


The “Home for the HiloDays” set list includes a bevy of holiday classics and festive favorites, including “Silent Night,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “The Prayer,” “Mele Kalikimaka,” “Santa Tell Me” and “Winter Wonderland.” There also will be a few unexpected surprises.

“The show features some of Hilo’s favorite performers singing and dancing to all our favorite songs of the season,” Reitzer said. “It’s 80 minutes of non-stop song and dance.”

The gifts keep coming, too. Carolers will serenade audiences before and after the show in the Palace’s decked out lobby. Eggnog, hot cocoa and other holiday goodies will be for sale at the Palace Lobby Café. Even Santa — despite his busy schedule — will be on hand for the festivities to welcome kids from 1 to 92 and help make the evening merry and bright.

“I have not spoken to Santa directly, just his assistant who told me this is one of his favorite holiday traditions and he can’t wait to visit the historic Hilo Palace Theatre,” Reitzer said. “I’m not sure about gifts, but I’ve been extra good with the hope of getting something.”

The show is being produced in association with the Hilo Education Arts Repertory Theatre, or HEART, which recently put on sold out runs of “The Lion King JR.,” “Cabaret” and “Avenue Q.” The nonprofit organization strives to create performance, education and audience-building opportunities for arts lovers of all ages on the Big Island. In addition to presenting theater, the group offers theatrical training to at-risk and underserved youth in the community.


“Home for the HiloDays” is also a fundraiser for the Palace, with the money raised to be used for the live theatre program.

The show promises all the entertaining flair, fun and festive fabulousness it has come to be known for, and organizers think it makes the perfect gift for the community. The music will be joyous; the costumes will be awesome; and the dancing will be thrilling.

“We created the show to be a holiday event that people looked forward to all year,” Reitzer said. “Judging by the incredible response to tickets, it looks like we are succeeding.”

So don’t wait. Get your tickets now for this Hilo holiday tradition. Keiki 12 years old and younger are $10, general admission is $20 and seating in the priority orchestra area is $30 in advance. All tickets are $5 more the day of performance.

Tickets can be purchased at the Palace Theater website. You can also purchase tickets from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Friday in person at the Palace box office or by calling 808-934-7010.

“’Home for the HiloDays’ is a celebration — a show that brings the community together to immerse ourselves in the timeless wonders of the holiday season,” Haines said in the press release. “Hilo will be so proud to see the incredible homegrown talent singing joyfully and dancing merrily!”

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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