The show must go on for Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which lost its creator earlier this year.
The progressive rock band, known for its Pink Floyd-sized spectacles, hauls its holiday show, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp., on Sunday, Nov. 19, with performances at 2:30 and 7 p.m.
After the death of artistic visionary and creator Paul O’Neill in April, many fans were left wondering whether the classic Christmas tours would continue. But Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s music director and lead guitarist, Al Pitrelli, said the group never considered skipping this year’s shows.
“I think the tour itself is addressing his passing,” Pitrelli said. “I mean, he created this. I think the show itself becomes a tribute to the man’s genius and, again, the legacy that will be carried on by his family. Ask me that question maybe in two months and maybe I’ll have a different answer. From my heart right now, I think that every note that I play on the guitar, every note that’s sung by the singers, how it’s presented by the production staff, by his family, I think that everybody knows that everything is a tribute to Paul.”
Originally meant as a one-off performance aired live on Fox television, the show earned such a positive reception that the taping went into syndication and runs almost every year. This tour debuted two years ago, featuring the group’s greatest hits in a new story. “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” rock opera takes up the first half of the show and tells the story of a runaway from the Midwest heading to New York City, where she takes refuge in an old Vaudeville theater. There, the caretaker discovers her and uses the ghosts of the theater’s past to turn around her life.
The second set features material ranging from new songs to hits from 20 years ago.
Pitrelli said the group changes the look of the stage, lighting, pyrotecnics, lasers, moving trussles and video content with each new tour. The show’s growth didn’t happen overnight, he said, but it’s come a long way from the first tour in 1999 when the band had just “one box truck and a couple lights and a fog machine, a vision and a dream.”
“Every year, there were more markets in the country that wanted it,” Pitrelli said. “Every year, people from around the planet were interested in what this thing is. Every year, we just keep feeding this thing and nurturing it and taking care of it, treating it like a growing child to the point where it’s become something so big and so incredible and it’s reached so many people we never thought we’d reach. It’s been a privilege to be part of it all these years.“
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra family also lost bassist David Zablidowsky (David Z) in July after a car crash. But through all of the tragedy the band has faced, Pitrelli said, it has made a point to keep going with its lost ones in its hearts.
“Life can go upside down on you real quick,” he added. “The irony of it all is that all of Paul’s stories deal with that one issue, you know? From ‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories’ right through ‘The Ghost of Christmas Eve,’ it’s all about loss and redemption. Somebody’s run away; there’s a child missing in the middle of the night who just wants to get home; there’s a father who misses his daughter. … Now, obviously all of Paul’s stories end with a happy ending, but in life they don’t sometimes. It’s funny that even from the other side, Paul is still always going to teach all of us.”