BWW Reviews: Signature Theatre's HOLIDAY FOLLIES is Pure Fun
Anyone looking for a reprieve from the madness of the holiday season should look no further than the Holiday Follies at Signature Theatre. This charming Christmas present of a cabaret show wonderfully combines humor, audience participation and a catalogue of both conventional and unconventional holiday songs to create an evening of pure fun.
The Holiday Follies have become an annual December tradition at Signature Theatre and it's easy to see why with the 2013 edition. For starters, Madeline Botteri, Austin Colby and Maria Egler make the perfect hosts for the Holiday Follies, keeping the mood of the show light-hearted and jovial. Together they have chosen a set list of their favorite holiday songs.
Audiences can expect to hear classics like "White Christmas" and "Marshmallow World" intermixed with more modern pieces such as John Meyer's "'Til After the Holidays" and "Audrey Turn the Moon" by Kelly Joe Phelps. Broadway fans won't be disappointed as Holiday Follies features a melody of musical-themed holiday songs. And of course, no Signature Theatre event would be complete without something from Stephen Sondheim. The 2013 edition of the Holiday Follies includes "Three Wishes for Christmas" which features lyrics by Sondheim and was originally cut from Gypsy. Those theatergoers seeking more Sondheim after hearing this song only have to go next door to Signature's Max Theatre where a revival of Gypsy is playing.
The Holiday Follies song selection goes beyond setting the mood; it allows the hosts to showcase their vocal range and distinct personalities which keeps the evening lively. One of the joys of the Holiday Follies was watching the ease with which the hosts navigated the eclectic playlist. Austin Colby does a terrific job interpreting everything from a mischievous kid in Kander & Ebb's "I'm Gonna Be an Angel" to misunderstood emo-protagonist with The Nightmare before Christmas' "What's This?" He displays tremendous heart with the way in which he takes standards so well-associated with other artists and makes them his own. He also proves equally adept at playing straight-man to the witty banter of his female co-hosts.
Madeline Botteri was the highlight of the evening with her sultry interpretation of "Lovers on Christmas Eve" from the Cy Coleman musical I Love My Wife. At first, the song may seem an unconventional choice for a holiday show. It is, after all, from a musical about two couples having sexual relations on Christmas Eve. But Botteri's performance reminds us that the holidays, and specifically Christmas, have different meanings for everyone. The sheer notion that Botteri can convey so much with a single song speaks volumes about her talent as an artist.
Maria Egler provides the Holiday Follies with some of their funniest moments. Her rendition of "My Simple Wish" featured solid comedic timing and was the perfect counterbalance to the evening's heavier songs.
Howard Breitbart excels as the evening's Musical Director, Arranger and Pianist. He has achieved the impossible by making old holiday standards sound fresh and modern. In addition to Breitbart, the onstage band includes, Paul Keesling on drums and Steven Walker on guitar who occasionally joins our hosts in song. The musical accompaniment does a fantastic job of never overpowering the singers and instead enhances their performances. Furthermore, the musicians occasionally join in with some of the on-stage gags!
Walter Ware III's direction is impeccable with the way in which he balances the talent onstage. No one host ever overpowers the others. Ware also conceived the Holiday Follies and does a great job in keeping the audience engaged by having the hosts moderate a hysterical audience improvisational version of "Deck the Halls." Additionally, our hosts have a jolly good time with stockings full of snow at the expense of each other and the audience!
Signature's Ark Theatre, which is always an awesome venue to see cabaret, has been made to feel even more cozy and intimate. A Christmas tree, strands of colored Christmas lights, an electric fireplace and presents fill the stage. Erin Pritchett's lighting design beautifully enhances several moments in the show. Whether through twinkling holiday lights during specific moments or timing their brightness to the beat of each song, Pritchett's work only adds to an already fun evening!
December can be a month filled with anxiety. Between holiday traffic, hectic mall scenes and unpredictable weather, it's easy not to feel the cheer of the season. But for anyone looking to rekindle the happiness of the holiday season, they should look no further than the Holiday Follies at Signature Theatre!