Evidently, the “War on Christmas” is now in full effect, since this show opts for “Holiday” in its title, the word some Fox News wackos love to hate. While the alt-right fumes at this choice, the rest of us who prefer acknowledging the existence of multiple religions can sit back and enjoy some festive song frolics.
The idea of a Holiday Jazz Revue is great, and this two-hour show at Karamu House delivers well, especially when the emphasis in on jazz interpretations of favorite Christmas songs, some of which have been made famous by Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and others. Working with just a three-person band, the show fairly glows when jazzy interpretations of faves, such as “Jingle Bells,” fill the air.
However, the voices in this eight-person company (Sean Dubois Day, Eric Floyd, Joshua McElroy, Molly McFadden, Mary-Francis Renee Miller, Rebecca Morris, Miguel Osborne, Clarissa Walker) tend to work better when singing as a group, since there are some vocal flaws with most of the soloists.
Conceived by Tony F. Sias, Nicole Sumlin (who doubles as music director) and Nathan A. Lilly (who doubles as musical stager), the highlights include a nice basso profundo take on “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by Osborne, a lovely “Lo, How a Rose ‘Ere Blooming” by Miller, and McFaddden’s “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” The gentlemen also do a respectable job with an acapella turn on the 17th Century Catalan carol “Fum, Fum, Fum.” And as mentioned, the choral pieces are just fine.
But if Karamu decides to do this Revue in the future, they might want to consider drafting some stronger solo voices and rethinking a couple of the staging decisions. In particular, turning “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” into a glancing sexual harassment situation tarnishes the naughty-but-nice attitude of that song. And if you’re going to do a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” it might be advisable do more with it than a bland, traditional reading from a book. (Think of the John Malkovich classic on SNL. Or, you know, think of something).
In any case, the performers are warm and welcoming, and it’s the holidays! So chug another spiked eggnog and have a blast!
Holiday Jazz Revuew
Through Dec. 23 at Karamu House, 2355 East 89 St., 216-795-7070, karamuhouse.org.