BWW Reviews: Kritzerland Celebrates Music of the Holidays
How can Kritzerland make a Christmas show unusual and different? Well, you can either be exceedingly solemn and point the show in the "Silent Night" direction, or pull out all the stops and run with the comedy. Kritzerland shows have one thing in common: they are never a drag. Bruce Kimmel sees to that whether Guy Haines is a guest or not. Solemn music? No, not in Kritzerland's nature! Fun, yes, always, as Kimmel's personality and anecdotes are full of the demon and amusingly interesting trivia about Broadway show tunes and Hollywood movie music. On Sunday December 2, at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal, Kimmel and his fine singers: Dan Callaway, Damon Kirsche, Emma Degerstedt, Lisa Livesay, Jane Noseworthy, and Jenna Rosen with very special guest star Bill Hayes, a 40 year veteran of Days of Our Lives, were on hand to present and celebrate Broadway, film and rock/pop holiday cheer. Lloyd Cooper served as musical director/accompanist extraordinaire throughout the 90-minute set that made up Kritzerland Records' Christmas with a Little Bit of Hannukah and a Lot of Cheer.
At the very top, audience was treated - on a big screen - to a new, unaired episode of Kimmel's Outside the Box, a relatively new webseries recently picked up as a regular feature of BroadwayWorld.com. Each episode focuses on the making of a Broadway musical that should never happen, this one Ben-Hur the Musical starring Kevin Symons as Judah and Damon Kirsche as Messala. There were some hilarious gay undertones here with boyhood friends still sharing the toys of their youth, as well as some fine choreography from Kay Cole.
Broadway tunes of the evening included: "Be a Santa" from the bomb Subways Are for Sleeping, a rousing opener performed nicely by Dan Callaway and Emma Degerstedt. Lisa Livesay offered a lovely "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" by Frank Loesser, and Jane Noseworthy was stunning with the oh so beautiful song "Winter Was Warm" from Jule Styne/Bob Merrill's failed Mr. Magoo. 14 year-old Jenna Rosen was fast and furious with "Turkey Lurkey Time" from Promises, Promises.
From the world of film there were the number one single of all time "White Christmas", a gorgeous "Count Your Blessings" from Irving Berlin's White Christmas, sung spectacularly by Dan Callaway and from Meet Me in St. Louis, Damon Kirsche brought down the house with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".
On the pop side of the fence there were a great put together of rock songs "Jingle Bell Rock" with "Run, Run Rudolph" jubilantly essayed by Callaway and a sexy, sassy "Santa Baby" by Emma Degerstedt. Noseworthy offered a delightful "Merry Christmas, Darling" from 1970 by Richard Carpenter that gave sister Karen a huge hit. Kimmel offered some fun trivia/totally useless info: three Filipino artists have had tremendous hit recordings of the Carpenter song over the years. The piece-de-resistance of the evening was Bill Hayes, forever young, singing Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song" which is always a treat for the ears. Soap star Hayes had a number one best selling hit in the 50s with his rendition of "Davy Crockett". Boy oh boy, the trivia one learns at a Kritzerland show: it boggles the mind! There was also a very funny new song presented by Jane Noseworthy "This Christmas" written by Kimmel for Sandy Bainum and her new Christmas album This Christmas, just released by Kritzerland. It's of course Christmas as seen through the eyes of a Jew, and deliciously off-center. A Christmas gift copy was given to everyone attending - nice touch!
This was a truly lovely show, but my only Christmas wish was that the evening had included more comedy. I think Guy Haines would have offered a great rendition of "Santa Baby", dressed in a red and green boa. C'mon, why not? Kimmel did joke at the top that he almost considered doing all rap music and calling it "Christmas Wrapping"! Something to think about for next year's show, Bruce! You're funny; you can do it!
Kritzerland will be back on January 6, 2013 for another splendid year of song and merriment, so mark your calendars! January's will mark their 29th presentation since inaugurated over two years ago at the Gardenia. Congrats!Photo credit: Stan Mazin