Interview: Jane Lynch Heads to Boston for A SWINGIN' LITTLE CHRISTMAS!

Holiday music will be on the set list December 6 and 7 at City Winery

By: Dec. 01, 2023
Interview: Jane Lynch Heads to Boston for A SWINGIN' LITTLE CHRISTMAS!
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Interview: Jane Lynch Heads to Boston for A SWINGIN' LITTLE CHRISTMAS!

Jane Lynch says she’s been a fan of Christmas music since her very earliest days.

“I probably started listening to it immediately upon my birth. My family is very musical. They’re not in the business, but there was always great music playing in our house,” explained Lynch by telephone recently while waiting for a flight out of LAX to Washington, D.C. “At the holidays, we always listened to Firestone Christmas albums – with music by everyone from Jack Jones to the Vienna Boys’ Choir – and albums like ‘The Andrew Sisters’ Christmas’ and Bing Crosby’s ‘Merry Christmas,’ with ‘White Christmas,’ of course, and also some beautiful devotional music.”

So it’s not surprising that the actor, singer, and comedian has made holiday music a regular part of her performing life. Indeed, what’s now an annual Christmas tour, “A Swingin’ Little Christmas!” – coming to Boston’s City Winery December 5 and 6 – began as a holiday album of the same name released in 2016 and featuring Lynch, actor and singer Kate Flannery, best known as Meredith Palmer from TV’s “The Office,” singer/arranger Tim Davis, and the Tony Guerrero Quintet.

“The album was a true collaboration. We were touring with another show, ‘See Jane Sing,’ in 1995 and we were in Saybrook, Connecticut, for a gig when Tony, who’s our bandleader, said, ‘What do you think about doing a Christmas album?’ Everyone was on board with the idea, especially if we could get the hi-fi sound of the Christmas albums that Doris Day and Peggy Lee did in the 1950’s and ’60s.

“That’s how Tony and his quintet play so they were perfect for this kind of Christmas album,” says the Illinois native. “There are so many great songs like ‘Jingle Bells,’ ‘Silent Night,’ and ‘Christmas Is My Favorite Time of Year’ in the public domain, so we picked those three and more. Tony did all the arrangements except ‘We Three Kings’ and ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ which he and Kate arranged. We recorded the vocals in Tim’s garage and set down the music in Tony’s studio, and Kate’s husband, Chris Haston, took the photos for the album cover,” recalls Lynch. “We didn’t skimp on anything. Instead, we worked for free because this project meant so much to us.”

That’s not usually necessary for Lynch, a five-time Emmy Award winner famous for playing a host of humorously off-beat characters on television – most notably the snarky cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on Fox-TV’s “Glee” and stand-up comic Sophie Lennon on Amazon Prime’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maizel” – and hosting the primetime NBC-TV game shows “Hollywood Game Night” and “The Weakest Link.” Lynch will return as Sazz Pataki in the upcoming fourth season of Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building.”

Her quirky film characters range from a butch dog handler in Christopher Guest’s mockumentary “Best in Show” (2000), a porn actress turned folk singer in Guest’s “A Mighty Wind” (2003), and an inscrutable entertainment reporter in his “For Your Consideration” (2006).

It was while shooting “Glee” that the versatile performer ended a long hiatus from singing to step into the role of Miss Hannigan in the 2012 Broadway revival of the musical “Annie.” Lynch was back on Broadway in 2022, playing Mrs. Brice in the revival of “Funny Girl.” She departed the show along with original star Beanie Feldstein so never had the chance to reunite, onstage anyway, with her “Glee” co-star Lea Michelle when she assumed the role of Franny Brice.

“That show was so much fun to do and I made some wonderful new friends, too,” says Lynch. “I would have loved to also do it with Lea, but my six-month contract was up and I had other projects already scheduled. I did get to see Lea in it, though, and she was spectacular.”

She’s not playing a character on her current Christmas tour, but she’s still planning to bring the laughs along with the holiday favorites.

“The show is fast paced. Kate and I will definitely be doing some comedy shtick and, along with Tim, a lot of wonderful three-part harmony. We take a complete journey from ‘Up on the Housetop,’ which we do in a poppy and jazzy style, all the way to Pachelbel’s Canon and ‘The First Noel,’ an arrangement that was Tony’s idea and is both breathtaking and exultant,” said Lynch. “That comes in the second, more emotional half of the show, after we do the big, splashy orchestral numbers.”

On the road touring with her friends and band – with stops after Boston in Indiana, Illinois, Arizona, Nevada, and California – through December 18, Lynch, who last month celebrated her second wedding anniversary with wife Jennifer Cheyne, will then head home to Santa Barbara, California.

“We did the big family gathering at Thanksgiving,” she says. “So for this holiday, we’ll just be at home with maybe a few friends stopping by. Jennifer has a son, and she’s a caregiver for the world. She rescues horses and dogs. She’s kind of a saint really, and I’m very much looking forward to being home with her for Christmas.”

Photo captions: Tim Davis, Jane Lynch, and Kate Flannery in cover art for “A Swingin’ Little Christmas!,” and Jane Lynch. Photo credit: Chris Haston.