Christmas is the most romantic holiday of all. American cinema and songbook are overflowing with splendid homage to the holiday. To my mind, the British have the food, drinks and decor holiday market cornered. But one need skip across the pond to bask in the Christmas show business splendor.
As soon as December rolls around, I find myself yearning for Bing to encourage me to have a drink more, because baby it’s cold outside. I catch a glimpse in the mirror and imagine what I would look like in a sequined snood, winding up a mechanical monkey and believing that next year all our troubles will be far away. During the first snowfall, I try running in the street and (quietly) wishing the building and loan a Merry Christmas. The mind reels with the richness of imagery. However, often the heart aches at the lack of real live people embracing and celebrating these traditions.
Imagine the complete and utter joy of discovering that such a thing truly exists and it involves champagne! A Swinging Birdland Christmas is a technicolor dream come true. Christmas standards, jazzy interpretations and re-imagined medleys are performed by Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch (and the Birdland jazz quartet.) Ms. Blackhurst, a new edition to the show, is utterly charming and of splendid voice. She has a surprise stupendous musical talent up her sleeve, which I will not divulge here. Mr. Caruso is a born showman, and in a decent world would be hosting his own televised variety show. His smooth voice is a natural for the repertoire. Billy Stritch sings like he plays the piano, with rich interpretation. His phrasing is reminiscent of Mel Torme and Frank Sinatra. Together these three make a delightful trio.
The show is a nice mix of solos, duets and trios. A standout solo is that of Mr. Stritch’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” (Frank Loesser.) I dare anyone not to swoon. Any one of the evening’s songs would put even the most Grinchy into a better mood. But for the hardest heart and coldest soul, there was the tribute to the Osmond’s Christmas Show. Jim Caruso’s Jimmy Osmond will linger in my mind. ( A note to television producers: There is a serious demand for Christmas variety shows!) If all this wasn’t enough to make one feel jolly, a special guest was in the audience last night. For the encore, Christine Ebersole took the stage and performed White Christmas. And when she asked everyone to join in, the barn door swung open (in my mind) and it was in fact snowing. I stood in my red satin, white fur trimmed gown, clutching Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen’s hands and thinking; “Oh what a lucky gal am I.”