A Broadway Diva Christmas
nytheatre.com review by Gyda Arber
December 6, 2005
Christmastime in New York is always one of my favorite times of year. Along with the elaborate decorations, window displays, and multiple ice skating rinks, we’re always presented with a cornucopia of holiday shows, from the traditional Nutcracker and Radio City Christmas Spectacular to every type of Christmas Carol imaginable. Joining the throng this year is A Broadway Diva Christmas, a holiday revue featuring a quintet of high-profile Broadway actresses, including Jane Eyre’s Marla Schaffel, One Life to Live and Hairspray’s Kathy Brier, and the original Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Ellen Greene.
Greene serves as the informal host of the proceedings, taking us through 18 Christmas songs, from the traditional (“Joy to the World,” “O Holy Night”) to the ultra-contemporary (U2’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “Lonely Jew on Christmas” from the television show South Park). The collection of songs, though diverse, works quite well under Brian J. Nash’s musical direction, who effortlessly blends the comedic pieces into more touching ones, with the help of a great band that supports the divas without overpowering them. The “Jingle Babes,” a power vocal trio, serve as choral backup for the proceedings and repeatedly sing “Silver Bells” (reprised a bit too much for my taste), creating a musical framework for the evening.
Comedic divas Greene and Christine Pedi (of Forbidden Broadway fame) succeed the most throughout the evening, Greene providing adorable renditions of “Silent Night” and “Santa Baby” and Pedi providing first a show-stopping rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” as Roxie in Chicago, then pulling another star turn with “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Pedi turns the most boring Christmas song ever into a hysterically funny display of her talent for impressions—the audience chooses 12 names from a hat, and Pedi sings each verse in the style of the actress named; selections at the performance I attended included Rosie O’Donnell, Bette Davis, Julie Andrews, and Fran Drescher. This song alone makes A Broadway Diva Christmas worth attending. Diva Brier belts out Joni Mitchell’s “River” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” as the vocal powerhouse of the night, and divas Schaffel and Maya Days round out the quintet with more serious, traditional fare, including “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”
It’s always exciting to see celebrities up close and personal, and for anyone who follows the Broadway scene, A Broadway Diva Christmas will be a great Christmas treat. Hearing this group of talented ladies share their favorite holiday songs certainly put me in the Christmas spirit. I hope that A Broadway Diva Christmas joins the many performance pieces that help New Yorkers welcome the Christmas season each year.