BWW Review: THE GREGORY BROTHERS Kick Off The Holidays In Style With Their CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR at Joe's Pub
Doing a Christmas show can be really tricky; and yet that's almost all that's playing during the month of December - so how do you get people in to see your show?
You give them something they can't get anywhere else.
At Joe's Pub last night The Gregory Brothers Christmas Spectacular delivered unto a spirited crowd a show that was, in fact, spectacular and that gave them something they can't get anywhere else. No, not the whole family singing group dynamic, that's not new; and not the "new ways of presenting classic songs" vibe because that's been done before -- though the Gregory Brothers do swing the family group thing, and they do breathe new life into old songs. The Gregory Brothers, though, are a unique band with a style all their own, a sound that authenticates learned musicianship, a genuine familial feel about them, strength in individual character, and a sense of humor that informs much of their 90 minute concert.
Starting the show by simply walking onstage, The Gregory Brothers assume the position and audience members who didn't know beforehand become immediately aware that The Gregory Brothers would be more appropriately named The Gregory Family because the three brothers have a fourth teammate, one who newcomers soon learn is Sarah Gregory, wife of Evan, who leads the show from behind the piano, where his lighter-than-air fingers dance so deftly over the keys that one wonders if he is actually playing any music at all. Evan does the hosting duties beautifully while Sarah, Michael, and Andrew jump in whenever and wherever their particular musical skills (or mischievous personalities) can most aptly contribute to the evening's entertainment. At first, the evening appears rather serious, with two very church-y Christmas carols, one traditional children's Christmas song, and "Christmas in Prison." The vocals and arrangements on these first four songs are wonderful and truly a joy to hear, but it is not entirely unimaginable that one might ask oneself if this is a Christian singing group, after the roof-raising "Go Tell It On The Mountain." That's when they do it - that's when they let you in.
On the fifth song of the evening, The Gregory Brothers set religion and children to one side and turn the concert over to the grownups. They perform their due diligence, pay honor to the fact that Christmas is centered around little 'uns and the birth of Jesus Christ, and once that is out of the way, they drop a little light profanity, pick up their cocktails, bring out their humor, and sing some material so original that you will want to buy the Christmas CD upon which those songs can be found (this writer did, and couldn't recommend it more). It's very tricky when you do your Christmas show because your audiences don't mind hearing your original songs, as long as they get at least five of their Christmas favorites. They need their Jingle Bells or White Christmas, maybe a little Frosty mixed with some Chestnuts roasting on an open fire - and if you give them that, they will sit still while you sing a song they never heard before, maybe find out they like it, and give you a round of applause after you're through. The Gregorys orchestrate, perfectly, the arrival of each original song in their setlist, making sure the audience has the right balance of new to old, and in doing so, they hold their audience in their collective palms, giving them an appreciation for how great these new songs are. It isn't an easy thing, writing a Christmas song, because not every new holiday tune becomes an instant classic - some drift away into Yuletide obscurity, while others go on to be recorded by every artist who makes a Christmas record. Each of the five original songs The Gregory's feature in their Christmas Spectacular will catch the attention of other singers who will want to record them and listeners who will want to hear them. From the fun "Those Traditions We Do" to the hilarious "Cold As Hell," from the delightful "New Year's Eve" to the bouncy "I Don't Want Anything For Christmas" and the lovely "Christmas Lullabye," each song is a welcome addition to any Christmas playlist. The only shame is that the cd SLEIGH RIDE/FIRESIDE does not contain the musical number that is one of the main reasons to see The Gregory Brothers Christmas Spectacular: "Home Alone, The Movie: The Song." It would be definitive to say that this number, alone, is worth the price of admission, but the simple truth is that the concert this family band presents contains four numbers that, alone, make it worth seeing their show - two of which cannot be found on their CD. The first is the "Home Alone" song and the second is their "Gifts of the Magi Suite" and both offerings are like little presents you find tucked away at the back of the tree, the special gift that you will always remember the year you got it and the person who gave it to you.
It is, therefore, significant to note that, even with all of the blessings bestowed on a most beholden audience, the standout performance of the evening was "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - a song nobody but Judy Garland should be heard singing, but that The Gregory Brothers (and, in particular, Sarah Gregory, who needs to be super famous ASAP) have reinvented in a mindblowing and incredibly moving way. It was a moment in their show that left the nightclub stunned and screaming.
Aside from their quirky and sensitive personalities, all of the Gregory siblings and spouses are possessing of most beautiful voices, with Andrew and Evan contributing mightily on acoustic guitar and piano, respectively. Aiding them last night at Joe's Pub were Kirk Schoenherr on electric guitar, Jeremy McDonald on bass, Bryan Bisordi on drums, Josh Rutner on alto sax, Justin Keller on tenor sax, Matt Holman on trumpet, and Casey McIntyre on foley (yeah... foley) and it is fair to say that, without even one of them, the show would have been considerably different.
And you don't want a different show. You want this show: The Gregory Brothers Christmas Spectacular. Because even though there will be many festive, beautiful, and wonderful Christmas shows this season, you will always remember going home to decorate your tree on the night that you were introduced to the magic of The Gregory's.
The Gregory Brothers have no concerts scheduled at this time. When their next concert dates are announced, Broadwayworld will bring you the news. Good news, though: there will be a studio taping that replicates this show, and it will be live streamed. BWW will announce that information when it becomes available.
To learn about all things Gregory Brothers please visit their Website
Buy the cd The Gregory Brothers Sleigh Ride/ Fireside on all digital platforms or get a hard copy cd at Bandcamp Website
Above photo from left to right: Sarah, Michael, and Andrew Gregory. Evan is seen in photos above, at the piano.
Photos by Stephen Mosher