Jeffry Denman and Marc Kudisch are out to save the holiday season from itself.
In 2009, the two veteran song-and-dance men with dozens of Broadway shows under their belts set out to create a new holiday show that would sidestep the brash commercialism of most yuletide theater offerings in New York City.
Over the course of an hour in a midtown Manhattan pizzeria, the duo hammered out the framework for "The Holiday Guys," a nostalgia-fueled cabaret-concert that will run for two performances Wednesday and Thursday in MusicalFare Theatre.
The hard-working Denman, a Western New York native who has brought several creative projects back to his hometown over the past 15 years ("Astaire," "Dancing in the Dark," "Changing Partners"), described the project as an attempt to bring holiday entertainment "back to basics."
The show, in which Denman and three-time Tony Award nominee Kudisch sing, dance and accompany themselves on guitar and ukulele to Christmas classics, was specifically designed to evoke warm and happy childhood memories of the holidays.
"We are tickling and touching all of the moments that make people think about Christmas, and hopefully creating a couple new ones," Denman said.
Think of it as a multidenominational, Broadway-branded extension of Linus' famous speech in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" about the true meaning of the holiday -- a reference that figures prominently in the show.
Denman and Kudisch appear as themselves in their show-within-a-show, which they've dubbed "Happy Merry Hanu-Mas." That title points up their differing faiths (Denman is Christian, Kudisch Jewish), which lends the show some of its comic fodder -- not to mention an opportunity to sing the much-loved "South Park" song "A Lonely Jew on Christmas."
The show also includes plenty of recognizable Christmas classics, including "The Christmas Song," "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," some of which are delivered in the duo folksy style and others in straight-up interpretations.
"It's basically like you're in our living room and we've invited you over for the holidays for a party and we are literally just trying to make up the evening as we go," Denman said.
The overarching goal of the project, which Denman said the pair hopes to expand to other holidays, is to return the focus of the holidays to where they believe it truly belongs:
"It sounds cliche, but it's family, friends and, in some instances, your hopes and dreams about what you want," Denman said, sounding a little Linus-like himself.
"They're simple things and it always feels sweeter at Christmas to think about those things for some reason. It's probably because we forget about them the rest of the year. And maybe that's what the holidays are exactly for."
"The Holiday Guys"
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday
WHERE: MusicalFare Theatre, 4380 Main St., Amherst
INFO: 839-8539 or www.musicalfare.com