19 December 2010

I think I've got "That Holiday Feeling" now!

     I've never understood the demise of the Bing Crosby/Perry Como/Andy Williams-type of Christmas special.  They were special (the only time all year you'd see them); they were cost-effective (a few wintry sets with fake snow and lots of candles), and they were straightforward (a hour of singing songs of the season).  They always happened in December (no matter how early Thanksgiving came!), they manged to evoke Christmas memories from kids from one to 92 (whether they had memories to evoke or not), and, most importantly of all, they signaled that Christmas was indeed coming.
      Well, just that signal has been sent by Playhouse on Park with their cabaret That Holiday Feeling that closed this afternoon.  Directed and choreographed by Darlene Zoller, with musical direction by Colin Britt, the show intentionally and successfully brought back a flood of memories of my own watching Bing and Perry and Andy with my parents in the 60s and 70s.  (Confession: I always wanted to be Nathaniel Crosby).
     Singing a wonderful collection of familiar and not-so familiar songs, the talented cast of nine performers manged to be sentimental and funny and lyrical and sweet without ever becoming saccharine (or succumbing to the times' seemingly inescapable need for irony).
               Kevin Barlowski's funny "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"
               Dante Jeanfelix's energized "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"
               Jenna Levitt's "River" (a song new to me, and, while not a new favorite, sung wonderfully)  
               Rick Fountain's mousy performance of "Rockin' Around the Christmas 'Cheese'" (despite not being able to sing most of his other numbers due to laryngitis)
               the male quartet of Kevin, Dante, Rick and Colin on the very witty pseudo-union-protest song "Elf's Lament"
and my personal favorite of the afternoon
          Becky LaBombard's "Christmas Stays the Same" (another song new to me but one that captured the show's ethos so perfectly and delivered with such warm sincerity that I wanted it to be reprised at program's end instead of the title song).
     These favorites should in no way suggest that remaining cast members (Carolyn Bell, Carolyn Cumming, Hillary Ekwall, and Victoria Thornsbury) somehow didn't deliver on such winning tunes as "Santa Baby," "Man Wanted," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and "I'll be Home for Christmas, respectively, but, if every number's a highlight, then none is, of course.
     In sum: from start to finish, my younger daughter and I enjoyed ourselves tremendously and wished, as we were leaving the theater, that it had been snowing.  Bing, after all, would have wanted it that way.
     Here's one vote in favor of a Playhouse on Park cabaret becomes a holiday tradition.      

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