Four years – and counting – has not dimmed Ellen’s adventurous spirit.
Ellen, alongside her gifted sister, Margaret Travolta, brilliant husband Jack Bannon, and talented musical pals Katie Strohmaier and Scott Steed, is back at it again for another year of a festive-filled holiday show here at The Coeur d’Alene Resort.
Debuted quite suitably as “The Christmas Show”, this year’s appearance tells the stories of countless Travolta family adventures, classic family Christmas tales – told by the “king of storytelling” himself, Jack Bannon – and of course a handful of cherished holiday songs for all to delight in. (And did I mention that you can enjoy wine and beer while you’re there, too? Yes – wine AND beer! It truly can’t get much better than watching the Travolta sisters in action while sipping on your favorite blend of grapes or hops!)
I had the fabulous opportunity to sit down with the star of the show herself, Ellen Travolta, to chat about the holiday performance that everyone is buzzing about this Christmas season! (Okay, I admit…we may have spent quite some time talking about our personal beauty secrets too…but that’s for a different day and a different blog post!)
Q. You retired in Coeur d’Alene in the 90’s – why Coeur d’Alene?
A. My husband and I were thinking about retiring from the television business and began searching for a possible summer home. We always wanted to live on a lake, so when we saw a picture of The Resort in the LA Times, we decided that we most definitely needed to visit. When we came up for the weekend, we absolutely fell in love with the entire city and the community within it. People were beyond welcoming to us and even recognized our faces as we walked down the street! One day, somebody came up to us as we were strolling in the park and said, “Hey, we know who you two are! Any chance you both wanna be in a play?” So we thought, “Hey, we should do that!”. And that is where our love with CDA began: The Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater. Because Jack and I both have extensive backgrounds in theater – I personally came from Broadway and spent many of my years touring on the road – we knew that this would be a fun adventure for the both of us. The Summer Theater was such an incredible experience that Jack and I both fell passionately in love with. And the rest is history!
Q. What makes Coeur d’Alene, as well as The Resort, special to you personally?
A. Between the beauty of the city, as well as the connection of putting our creativity and vision to work, Coeur d’Alene was truly a perfect fit for my husband and I right from the get-go! Once you retire, you want to be a part of something, and we instantaneously envisioned ourselves being a part of this beautiful community. That’s the biggest thing we get a kick out of: continually being involved in what Coeur d’Alene has to offer. My husband and I both think that the Resort is so romantic and filled with such respectful and accommodating employees – it is truly a wonderful place to spend the holidays with your loved ones.
Q. You say you’ve been an “entertainer” since you were a mere 5 years old – tell us more about that.
A. I was in lots of recitals as a young girl. And not only that, but I also did a lot of entertaining of my mothers and fathers house guests at our home; I was truly a little girl with a big voice. I enjoyed performing in anything local, and truly took off in TV and film once I hit my 30’s.
Q. What is the plot of this year’s show?
A. It’s a very family-oriented show; I always think of it as the “laughing and crying show”. We have absolutely wonderful music: Katie Strohmaier plays the piano and sings along with our bass player, Scott Steed. My husband, Jack Bannon, is an exquisite storyteller with great accents and articulations. There is a section of the show that Margaret and I tell stories about growing up in New Jersey when we were children – that’s the part that people tend to love because it becomes very personal and special. We sing, we dance, we laugh, and we just have fun!
Q. What is the most special part of working with your family for this show?
A. I can walk away from it saying that we sincerely have fun. We thoroughly enjoy working together and reunite to do this show as one, Katie and Scott included! I like to call them all my “Christmas family”.
Q. Where do you come up with your best ideas?
A. Thinking of new thoughts and concepts is always on my mind! Music, readings, things that I love, things that other people love – they all inspire my work.
Q. What Christmas song would I hear if I walked into your home during the holidays?
A. Without a doubt Johnny Mathis’ Christmas album of 1961! To this day it is still my absolute favorite. It came from a time of my life when my family and I were going out on the road, and we all truly enjoyed listening to that particular album over, and over, and over again!
Q. Any New Year’s Resolutions?
A. Not to get old. I have a dear friend named Wendy who recently told me that if I didn’t stay as active and involved as I do now, I’d get old. I always want to be young at heart –to be productive, to keep on my toes, and to always have fun. The Christmas Show truly helps me do all of those things.
Q. Do you have any special “Ellen rituals” to prepare yourself for the show?
A. I like to surround myself with peace and quiet beforehand – it helps me get into the atmosphere of the show I am about to perform. I find that it truly helps me to create a comfortable atmosphere for myself as well as the audience – they forget they are at a show and feel as if they are watching our performance from the luxury of their living room! This year’s Christmas Show is truly a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season: it’s warm, it’s inclusive, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and then you’ll want to do it all over again!
Directed by Troy Nickerson, this live, cabaret-style performance runs every Thursday through Sunday here at the fairy-tale holiday venue of the Pacific Northwest: The Coeur d’Alene Resort. Tickets are $27.50 and can be purchased by calling (855) 379-5478 or online at cdachristmas.com.
One thing is for sure: I’ll most definitely be at the show with my sisters, wine glasses in one hand, and tissues in the other!