Virtual ‘First Night’ makes New Year’s Eve magic

Posted on December 21, 2020 by

It’s Christmas Eve, and that means the countdown to the New Year, 2021, has already begun and gets serious today.

  So, what are you doing on New Year’s Eve to ring out this no good, terrible, awfully bad year we’ve endured? 

  The traditional hoopla, noisemakers, dinner and champagne with friends won’t happen this year unless you live in a bubble with your pals and you all test negative.   

Virtual performances of Jack Neary’s ‘First Night’ take place on December 30-31.

   Not to worry. There are virtual entertainment options to make you feel celebratory despite being stuck at home. 

  In case you missed it last year, you can check out Acting Out Production’s 7-camera recording of its superb production of Jack Neary’s “First Night.” Featuring John Manning and Jocelyn Duford, it was recorded on December 28, 2019, by videographer Alan McRae before a live audience at the Firehouse Center for the Performing Arts in Newburyport. 

  It will be streamed on December 30 and 31 at 8 p.m. and again on December 31 at 10 p.m., ending 15 minutes before the end of 2020.

  Notes Neary: “Unlike the Zoom shows we’ve all been watching, this one features the laughter and applause of humans actually in the theatre having a wonderful time.”

John Manning and Jocelyn Duford in ‘First Night’ by Jack Neary.

  Set on New Year’s Eve, 1985, Neary’s delightful two-hander is about Danny Fleming, a likeable guy in his mid-thirties. He’s about to close up his neighborhood video store for the night when into the shop pops a woman he believes he knew in grammar school.

   What he remembers most is that she went away to become a nun — so why is she here? And why does he care? And what does she want to rent? As the story unfolds, these and other questions are answered. 

  The production features stellar performances by Manning and Duford. The duo brought these delightful characters to life last year, pre-pandemic, to the Actors Studio Theatre in Newburyport, the Larcom Theatre in Beverly, the Hatbox Theatre in Concord, N.H., the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, as well as the Firehouse Center.    

  “If you’ve seen this production already, or any other performance of the show in 2019, please pass the word to others and enjoy it again yourself,” says Neary.

  Tickets are a bargain at $10, individual and $25, family. Visit for tickets.

In the wings

A SONG FOR THIS CHRISTMAS: Some are already calling it the anthem for this year’s Christmas. And Mary Callanan,  UMass Lowell graduate and Broadway veteran, is presenting its world premiere on YouTube. “At Least There’s Christmas” is a new song by Broadway conductor/pianist Caleb Hoyer which captures the range of emotions Americans are experiencing this year. His lyrics encourage all to take comfort in the simple joys of the holiday and draw strength from the light Christmas offers in this dark time. “The minute I heard the song, I knew that it summed up how I’ve been

Mary Callanan and Brian Patton

feeling about this Christmas and the year in general,” said Callanan, who debuted the song with her friend and accompanist Brian Patton two weeks ago on their weekly Tuesday evening Facebook cabaret show. Callanan, whose Broadway and national tour credits include “Annie,” “Bandstand,” “Mamma Mia” and “My Fair Lady,” has known Hoyer since 2015 when they worked on the national tour of “The Bridges of Madison County.” To see Callanan and Patton perform the bittersweet tune, visit

RING IN THE NEW: Ring in and sing in 2021 with Greater Boston Stage Company’s virtual production “Carolyn Saxon and Friends: Singing in the New Year.” Carolyn Saxon, with special guests Robert Saoud and Kathy St. George, will sing everyone’s favorite songs from the American Songbook, Broadway and more. Directed by producing artistic director Weylin Symes and featuring music director Matthew Stern on piano, the 75-minute-long concert will ring in the new year with good spirits and cheer when it airs on Thursday, December 31 at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Favorite songs include “Old Devil Moon,” “Almost Like Being in Love,” “Happy Days are Here Again,” and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” among others.

A virtual concert on New Year’s Eve

“GBSC has a wonderful tradition of bringing quality New Year’s Eve entertainment to audiences every year, and I was flattered to be asked to contribute to this tradition in a virtual way,” said Saxon. Tickets are $35, single; $55, group at 

HOLIDAY GIFTS: Give a gift certificate for $50 for live theatre at Merrimack Repertory Theatre and receive a free $10 voucher. The offer is on through December 27, in case you are looking for last minute gifts. The deal is good for any show, forever. It can be applied to any ticket including subscriptions and does not expire. Call 978-654-4678 or go online at

Nancye Tuttle’s email address is

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