BWW Interview: Husband-Wife Vocalists Jessica and Santino Fontana Talk Houston Symphony's VERY MERRY POPS

Jessica and Santino Fontana
Photo by Jennifer Broski

For the Houston Symphony holiday concert VERY MERRY POPS, not only does Santa Claus come to town, but so do the sweeter-than-honey honeys, Jessica Fontana and Santino Fontana. Best known for their roles in the Broadway production of CINDERELLA (and Santino for being the voice of Prince Hans in Disney's FROZEN), the husband-and-wife performers join the Houston Symphony orchestra, conducted by Steven Reineke, Principal POPS Conductor Designate, and the Houston Symphony Chorus, directed by Betsy Cook Weber, in song.

This year ushers in a new era of VERY MERRY POPS. This is Reineke's first VERY MERRY POPS and the program includes almost all new arrangements straight from the conductor himself. (Reineke assures his arrangement of "O Holy Night" will bring down the house.) This is not to say that the music will be a shock to the system. The Santinos will perform a yet-to-be-announced FROZEN song, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and even Mariah Carey's chart topper "All I Want for Christmas is You."

VERY MERRY POPS promises to be an easygoing Christmas celebration where patrons get to bop their heads, tap their feet, and mouth (or in the case of the sing-along sing) their favorite Christmas songs while the orchestra, chorus and vocalists fill the room with spirit-lifting music.

In the interview below, the Fontanas talk to Broadway World about VERY MERRY POPS and the joys and challenges of being a show business married couple all while being as cute as a basket of puppies.

What do you have in store for the Houston audience? Please tell me about the song and arrangements you have planned!

Santino Fontana: We're thrilled to get to sing some amazing arrangements of Christmas songs!

Jessica Fontana: Some [songs] you'll know really well, and others may be new to you. "Let It Snow," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "O Holy Night," "Silver Bells."

Santino Fontana: Even some Mariah Carey with "All I Want For Christmas Is You." [Pauses, then to Jessica] I had never heard of -- what's your first song?

Jessica Fontana: "I Wonder As I Wander."

Santino Fontana: It's gorgeous! We have a bunch of solos and duets.

Jessica Fontana: And there's a big choir that will be joining us as well.

Santino Fontana: And a special guest, I'm told.

Jessica Fontana: We're very excited.

How do you prepare for performances? You seem like a very tight knit couple. How close (or not close) is your collaboration?

Jessica Fontana: Well, every performance is different, but for this we've been really drilling the lyrics.

Santino Fontana: We were able to rehearse once with the conductor, Steven Reineke, back in New York, but we've been pretty good about running through everything over and over.

Jessica Fontana: This will be our first big orchestra performance together.

Santino Fontana: It's been really nice to get to work on it and rehearse it together. We had a friend from the cast of CINDERELLA on Broadway come over and play through it with us a few times too.

Can you talk a little about the joys and challenges of being the Broadway version of Jay Z and Beyonce?

Santino Fontana: We're flattered, but I'm pretty positive that no one thinks of us as the Broadway version of Jay Z and Beyonce.

Jessica Fontana: But I love that you compared us to them. Can I steal that? I may start asking our friends to call us that.

Santino Fontana: [To Jessica] Go for it. [Back to Broadway World] I'd say it's mostly joyous, but it can be challenging at times of course.

Jessica Fontana: But who better to help you through this crazy ride than someone who's going through it themselves. I can't imagine if I was married to a doctor asking him, "What do you think I should wear for my audition?"

Santino Fontana: Yeah, it works out really well.

There are so many great live performances going on in Houston right now. It's the holiday season, so everyone is bringing out the hits e.g. THE NUTCRACKER, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Handel [MESSIAH at the Houston Symphony], Vivaldi [GLORIA at Mercury Houston]. Why should audiences attend VERY MERRY POPS [instead of the other great productions]?

Santino Fontana: Everyone should come to hear this amazing orchestra and choir play these songs!

Jessica Fontana: Some of these arrangements are epic!

Santino Fontana: It'll be sure to start your Christmas off on the right foot!

VERY MERRY POPS performances are 8 p.m. December 2 and 3; 2:30 p.m. December 4; and 7:30 p.m. December 4. Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. $25 - $138.

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From This Author Katricia Lang

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