Upright Cabaret’s A Broadway Christmas
Producer Chris Isaacson’s seventh annual holiday season concert, "A Broadway Christmas," offers a formidable roster of singers and dancers spreading holiday cheer in an eclectic blend of seasonal tunes and other appealing fare.
This year, Isaacson’s presentation for his venerable Upright Cabaret company has expanded to four performances, among three Southern California venues. The show was reviewed during its opening presentation at the popular Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, a well-equipped an appealing spot for dinner, drinks, and live entertainment.
Without a doubt, the stellar attraction is the lavishly talented and charismatic Lillias White ("The Life," "Fela!," "Dreamgirls"), whose career awards have included the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Emmy, and People’s Choice. As we have come to expect from her, White graces each number with her incomparable style, which combines humor, heart, and passionate conviction alongside the force and consummate artistry of her amazing voice.
Those who love Cy Coleman’s musical "The Life" have a big treat in store; White’s recreation of her magnificent "Oldest Profession" number from that Broadway blockbuster. Her first number, early in the show, is an enchanting new song by legendary tunesmiths Marilyn and Alan Bergman, "Through the Eyes of a Child," a perfect number for this time of the year.
White concludes the evening in style with the aforementioned Coleman showstopper, as well as a hilarious and brassy "Big Fat Daddy," singing of her preferences for a Santa. A soulful and spectacular take on "Silent Night" is her encore number.
Before these climactic moments, a huge array of gifted performers have their moments in the spotlight. One definite highlight is a smashing delivery of the religious hymn "O Holy Night," by tenor Nathan Shrake, in a rendition that definitely warranted the seemingly endless ovation that followed on opening night.
Another inspirational tune, "Count Your Blessings," (from "White Christmas") is delivered in a charming and uplifting style by Carla Renata. Isaacson’s co-host David Hernandez, an "American Idol’ finalist, delightfully croons a number of songs, leading a group in a snappy "Jingle Bells" and going solo in numbers such as "This Christmas."
Lynsey Shaw, a statuesque Brit, belts out the power ballad "Home" from "The Wiz" with passion and style. Broadway vet Kelli Provart likewise rocks the rafters with her galvanizing delivery of "A New Life." A quartet of singers identified as "Oh What a Night" skillfully emulate the Four Seasons in an irresistible medley of Santa songs. Santa himself made a guest appearance on opening night, while a charming little boy, son of one of the musicians, handed out a few gifts to the audience.
Also meriting salutes are the high-kicking L.A. Follies, a group of singer-dancers; the singing trio called Ho Ho Hos; and other vocalists: Brittany Underwood, Sylvia MacCalla, Ricke Vermont, single-monikered Chadwick, Matt Zarley, Karissa Noel, Nita Whitaker, LaToya London, and Nita Whitaker.
Adding to the magic are festive and colorful projections by Tim Hicks, and the terrific five-piece band (Jamieson Trotter-musical director and pianist; Matt Lucich-drums; Alex Balderston-bass, and Wesley Smith-saxophone and flute.
Those who are in a "bah humbug" mood can find a nifty way to chase the blues away by partaking of Isaacson’s felicitous yuletide confection.