BWW Reviews: CHRISTMAS MY WAY Is a Real Holiday Audience Pleaser at the El Portal
Christmas My Way/conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson/directed by David Grapes/El Portal Mainstage/through December31
No finer Christmas present will come your way than Christmas My Way now onstage at the El Portal in NoHo through December 31. Written by David Grapes and Todd Olson who gave us My Way - A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, the show is a delicious combo of Christmas and nonholiday standards made famous by Ol' Blue Eyes.
There's no drama or seriousness to be had. Well, almost! With a bar onstage it's clear that this is a party, so put on your party gear and take a joy ride for two hours with a magnificent quartet of sterling performers: Luca Ellis, Jason Graae, Heather Lee and Beth Malone. They tell some anecdotes about Sinatra, how he recorded 31 Christmas hits, the most memorable about his relationship with Ava Gardner and how losing her sent him on a Christmas drinking binge in 1952. That's about as serious as it gets. There's a silly parody of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas as only funnyman Jason Graae can relate, a deliriously fun "Twelve Days of Christmas" as an audience sing-a-long among other surprises. Graae, even when he loses the lyrics, is a joy to watch. It's his improv skills, his spontaneous ability to captivate an audience that make him so likable - and he can really sing! Many take this for granted. To say the least, he has some great numbers here like "Witchcraft" and "Chicago". What a joy to see Heather Lee, such a fine character actress, sing in a revue! She's not only elegant and fun, but has such a terrific vocal instrument which she shows off with abundant charm. Of course, Beth Malone has a stagecraft and delightful way all her very own and she lets it rip particularly on "The Man That Got Away". The piece-de-resistance is Sinatra song artist Luca Ellis. Just close your eyes and listen to "An Old-Fashioned Christmas", "Fly Me to the Moon", "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "New York, New York". He sounds uncannily like the Chairman of the Board with a style and grace that pull you in and hold onto you with every note he sings. And he's pretty suave and handsome to boot! The chemistry between all four is just wonderful, making both their singing and speaking exchanges laid-back and thoroughly enjoyable. It's like being in a living room with friends and fits right into Francis Albert Sinatra's lifestyle!
Other memorable songs of the evening include: "Mistletoe and Holly", "All or Nothing At All", "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "Winter Wonderland", "You Make Me Feel So Young" and of course, "My Way". Musical arrangements are by Vince di Mura who serves brilliantly as musical director at the piano. James Leary III is on bass and Jimmy Ford on drums. Bruce Goodrich's Christmasy set design is lush, as are Gene Barnhart's costumes. Loved Malone's and Lee's black gowns and the men's silver jackets for Act II.
What a fantastic way to spend the holiday season with four miraculous singers/entertainers and the music of the number one singer of all time Frank Sinatra. Christmas My Way is a great big hit from start to finish, a Christmas present dressed to the nines and tied up with a bow!