BWW Review: Marieann Meringolo Gets us All IN THE SPIRIT at Feinstein's/54 Below
Feinstein's/54 Below, NYC, December 6th, 2019
There's a reason that Marieann Meringolo continues to reprise this holiday show annually at the most popular dinner theater in town. She's a ton of fun. With a classic, made-for-recording smooth voice, she piped out holiday favorites as well as some unique gems from recording artists she knew (and in some cases had in the audience). Part of her appeal has got to be that she has a classic, New Yorker vibe. She's Italian, which I like, because I'm Italian (and I'm sure half of the crowd was too). And, she's been mistaken for being Jewish her whole life, which I understand too. And in many ways, that's what makes her holiday show a little bit more charming. She acknowledges Christmas is not the only holiday, but welcomes people of all faith to partake in some of the traditions such as holiday lights and Christmas trees, singing, "It's Christmas and We're Jewish." Dressed in a fabulous, glittering red ball gown, she also shared stories of her Christmases long, long ago. It was a flashback to the era of many of the songs she sang.
One of the nice things about Marieann is that she was fantastically consistent throughout her show. Typically, a few songs really stand out among a whole show, but Marieann came well-prepared. Maybe therefore it's best to point out that she introduced songs into the show very well. Potentially, this is where acclaimed director, Will Nunziata, was able to bring an additional touch. Regardless, Marieann's adroitness made the show sharp and easy to follow. For example, Marieann sang "My Favorite Things" from Sound of Music to transition into talking about her favorite album as a child (which she displayed to the audience) and favorite songs from that album. When she read off the song, "Do you hear what I hear," the piano came to life, and suddenly we were in the next song. She also had a few, good one-liners including, "I do love Winter in Manhattan, up until January 1st." Relatable, and well said after singing a beautiful pair of songs, "Winter in Manhattan" (by Larry Kerchner, was in the audience) and "Silver Bells."
The show continued on in that way, mixing old and new, and always maintaining that classic appeal. She sang the beautiful, "Silent Night/O, Holy Night," while adding contemporary writer friends tunes, "Christmastime (It's Time to Fall in Love),"(another audience member original by Kurt Wieting) and a new Julie Gold tune about "Being Present" at Christmas. While Julie couldn't make the show, I agree with Meringolo and am very fond of her work, having followed it for a couple years now since seeing her host her own show. Ultimately, I loved the combination of old and new, along with the brashness with which Marieann let herself be herself on stage. This unapologetic "I am me" attitude made it easy to be on her side, and no better example of this is when she and long time pianist, Doyle Newmyer sang the duet, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Perhaps it should be said, that they sang all the lines, but acted the parts a little differently than usual. Marieann made it seem like she was indecisive about staying and Newmyer merely agreed that the weather outside was frightful. It was entertaining and ended with the best part. Marieann turned to Newmyer and asked, "What would your wife think?" To which he replied, "My wife? What about yours?"
While Marieann isn't married yet, she praised her supportive girlfriend and continued into the next song, "Winter Wonderland." In addition to Newmyer, she was joined on stage by Josh Marcum on bass and Brian Woodruff on drums. Ultimately, Marieann put on a great show, and if you missed it, she'll be back again next year with another special Holiday celebration.